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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Disney Rumor 2003: Forget Apple, Disney, Inc. Wants Steve Jobs
December 5th, 2003

One of the longest running rumors in the Mac world is the one about Disney buying Apple. Such a buyout has been imminent for about three or four years now, and it crops up often enough to almost warrant a Disney Buyout Counter similar to our Apple Death Knell Counter, but today we have a brand new twist. New York tabloid the New York Post has published a piece saying that Steve Jobs himself may be being targeted as a successor for embattled Disney CEO, Michael Eisner.

Yes, that's the same Michael Eisner who reportedly referred to Steve Jobs as a "Shiite Muslim" in a characterization of Mr. Jobs having "extreme views" (read our full coverage for more information). From the Post:

As far as the entertainment industry and Wall Street would be concerned, the most welcome second-in-charge and nominal successor to Eisner could be none other than Steven Paul Jobs - head of Apple Computer and Pixar, and the guy who currently has Disney over one massive barrel.

"That one's been around for a while," says a Disney spokesperson.

Indeed. But sources out in the land of warmth say speculation that the Disney Co. would be forced to offer Jobs a position - if only a seat on the board - intensified this week, as soon as Roy Disney's keister had cleared the company parking lot.

There's more in the full story at the Post's Web site. This is an unsubstantiated report from a tabloid, but I personally am giving it some credence. I don't think it will go anywhere, but that doesn't mean that Disney doesn't want or need Steve Jobs today.

Disney has become a creative wasteland

At issue is turmoil in the Magic Kingdom. On the one hand, two Disney board members have recently left the company, calling for Mr. Eisner's resignation as they went. On the other hand is the fact that the only real bright spots in the company's business are its relationship with Pixar and its contested Pooh-related revenues.

Disney hasn't had a hit animation in years, except for the movies that have been made by Pixar. Its feature films also seem to be being generated in a creative vacuum, with the company having sunk to the low of making feature films based on theme park rides that were designed decades ago when Disney didn't suck.

At the same time, Disney has been at the forefront of destroying the intellectual integrity of copyright laws, turning copyright into a lifetime + entitlement in order to keep coasting on Mickey Mouse's coattails. This from the company that Walt Disney (the person) built on a legacy of public domain material that he and his team turned into modern classics.

I could go on for hours, but I suppose my point is that today's Disney is a morally bankrupt pit of filth that has worked hard to turn many of this nation's laws into the overly corporate-friendly legal quicksand they are today. Disney's contemporary works, even when they are good, are unoriginal, and most of the company's profits come from licensing revenue derived from third-party creations. This isn't a slam at the rank and file workers and artists at Disney, but rather to the management team that has sucked the life out of those folks.

Disney + Pixar = $$$

Back to Pixar, Steve Jobs' other company is one of those third-party companies that has made hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars for Disney. The problem for Disney is that Pixar's contract with Disney will be complete once the animation studio's next film is released (not counting any sequels, which Disney seems to own). Though the majority of normal-joes seem to think that Disney actually made films like Toy Story, Monster's Inc., and Finding Nemo, the reality is that Pixar can take its toys to anyone it wants to, and word is that there are lots of distribution companies that want.

That said, Pixar itself has made money from the power of Disney's name. Remember, most folks don't know or realize that Disney sucks, and there is little doubt that numerous Pixar movie tickets, DVDs, and plush toys have been sold to people buying into Disney's no-longer deserved reputation for excellence. Would as many people do that buying if it was the Universal, or even Dreamworks, name on the movie?

In a word, no.

Today

So, here we are today. There's more and more evidence that Mr. Eisner doesn't care for Mr. Jobs, and I'd bet dollars to donuts that Mr. Jobs lists Mr. Eisner high up on his list of Bozos. At the same time, Disney needs Pixar, and IMNHO Pixar needs Disney; and now, Disney may well need Mr. Jobs himself.

That's a tangled web, to be sure. The fact is that in many, many ways, Steve Jobs would be a good CEO for Disney, especially if Disney shareholders believed in pursuing profits through the creation of excellent products (movies and the like). Steve Jobs loves making movies -- a point he has made more than once -- he has shown that he can craft deals with the best Hollywood moguls, and if there was any tech exec that could steer a company like Disney through the digital age, it's Stephen P. Jobs.

Therein lies the problem, though. We're not talking about Steve Jobs jumping into the CEO role, however, but rather becoming a president at Disney. That means he would be answering to Mr. Eisner, and we all know that Steve Jobs doesn't do so well as a lieutenant. Mr. Eisner should know that it would likely be a matter of weeks before Steve Jobs convinced the Disney board that Michael Eisner is a bozo and had him ousted.

In fact, Michael Eisner probably does know that, and we can hope this story will end up going nowhere. I, for one, would like to see Steve Jobs stay at Apple.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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