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Siri meets Ultron? Disney chief says Apple merger could have happened
Disney’s recent history has been one of acquisition, domination, and general business moves turning the House of Mouse into a genre entertainment juggernaut. The company, which owns an estimated 40 percent of the film market, recently broke a record for global ticket sales over the summer (with half the year left), and has a stake in six of the box office’s top ten (Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and Aladdin). The upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will surely cement its place among their ranks. But Disney could’ve been even more dominant, according to a new autobiography. Disney could’ve merged with Apple.
According to Variety, the only thing keeping Apple and Disney from merging back in the day was the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Disney CEO Bob Iger wrote as much in his new autobiography, The Ride of A Lifetime: Lessons From 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, which came out on Wednesday.
“I believe that if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously,” Iger wrote. An Apple/Disney hybrid? As if owning Marvel and Star Wars wasn’t enough, they’d be able to release exclusive MCU content only on iPhones.
This relationship with Jobs was fundamental to Iger’s time at Disney. One of Iger’s first moves after transitioning from COO to CEO was to purchase Pixar from Jobs (who had funded and effectively owned the company from its Toy Story origins) in 2006. This was only two years after “Steve made a very public, in-your-face announcement that he would never deal with Disney again,” Iger wrote. But that was when Disney was under Michael Eisner, when distribution negotiations broke down and old wounds resurfaced. Iger wanted the relationship healed, which meant baby steps — ABC shows being sold on iTunes, for example — that lead to a giant leap: Disney buying Pixar for $7.4B.
Disney/Pixar films are now the status quo, differentiated from standard Disney animation only by thematic maturity and animation style and the Pixar brand. If the flourishing relationship between executives and business partners was able to continue unhindered, Jobs’ more famous association, Apple, may have followed the path of Pixar. According to Iger, “With every success the company has had since Steve’s death, there’s always a moment in the midst of my excitement when I think, ‘I wish Steve could be here for this.'”
Jobs died of pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011, a month before Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook named Iger to its board of directors. The next year, Disney bought Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4B. Perhaps that could’ve been a joint venture with Apple if Jobs had lived, though that means even more genre fans would be buying iPhones than they already are. At least they wouldn't have to subscribe to Apple TV+ and Disney+.