Robert Iger is going down in history as the sixth CEO of The Walt Disney company and like it or not, the most visionary of all (with the exception of the late Walt Disney of course). As Iger declared in the first chapter, The Ride of a Lifetime is not a memoir. It’s more of a book in which he shares his ideas, values and the stories behind in bringing Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox to the Disney stable.
The first few chapters detailed his humble upbringing on Long Island and his career as a studio supervisor at then ABC Television. Yes the man started his career at the bottom of the corporate ladder before being made vice president of ABC sports and subsequently, head of ABC entertainment. He was also a weatherman after college mind you. Despite coming from a very different corporate culture and a man without an Ivy league education, Iger became COO of the Walt Disney company with the acquisition of ABC.
From Iger’s retelling, we learnt that he is quite a resilience man. Always willing to learn, always willing to go the distance to achieve his goals. The man is also ever ready to admit his mistakes. Clearly, this is also a book about his work values and philosophies. Even with a temperamental man as his boss (Disney’s fifth CEO, Michael Eisner who got ousted in the end), Iger remains steadfast and committed, never getting himself into awful confrontations except that one time when he walked out of a board meeting.
The book starts to get fairly exciting from Chapter 9 as Iger talks about befriending the notoriously difficult Apple founder, Steve Jobs over the Disney/Pixar deal. This is just the tip of an iceberg as Disney as we known for their beloved animations is venturing into comics- the acquisition of Marvel for the price tag of $4 billion. Iger is not stopping here either as he talks about the purchase of Lucasfilm with George Lucas in the subsequent chapter.
Last but not least, Rupert Murdoch’s selling of 21st Century Fox to Disney over a glass of wine. One of the biggest business deal in recent corporate history if you recall. Within a span of 15 years as CEO and with many board members being sceptical about Iger being the man for the job at first, he has proven otherwise and now the Walt Disney company is more than just a media company that produces animations and running theme parks.
If you are looking for juicy gossips behind all the corporate stuff, I’m afraid this is not the book you are looking for. For example, John Lasseter, the disgraced animator and COO of Disney/Pixar did get a brief mention but it’s more obligatory than anything. Iger ends his book by including lessons to lead by. Bits and pieces of collected wisdom as he says. And do you know he also has an interest in launching a 2020 Presidential campaign? Since he is scheduled to retire in December 2021, perhaps we shall see more of him in politics rather than the entertainment industry.
Like Iger always mentioned in his book, “Innovate or die”.
Review by Linus Tee
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