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General Discussions Discuss A new day at Disney in the Community Center forums; A new day at Disney Steadfast Iger is the flip side of fiery Eisner Kim Christensen Los Angeles Times September 29, 2005 HOLLYWOOD -- During his five years as No. ...
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    Kellie19891992's Avatar
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    A new day at Disney

    A new day at Disney
    Steadfast Iger is the flip side of fiery Eisner
    Kim Christensen
    Los Angeles Times

    September 29, 2005

    HOLLYWOOD -- During his five years as No. 2 to Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner, Robert Iger has earned a reputation as a hard worker, a quick study and, well, a pretty buttoned-down guy.

    Steven Bochco came to know another, looser Iger in the early 1990s, when the prolific television producer sat down with the then-head of ABC to map out NYPD Blue, the gritty cop show that would feature, among other things, its stars' naked derrieres.

    "I remember sitting in Bob's office, just the two of us, with a pad and a pencil, drawing dirty pictures like a couple of sixth-graders," the producer recalled.

    Bochco laughs at the memory of using those sessions "to decide what was acceptable and what wasn't." But he is quick to credit Iger for developing a clear set of standards for the series, which ran for 12 years beginning in 1993, and for standing by the show when the religious right assailed it for its racy themes.

    Bochco and others say it is this Iger -- deliberate and steadfast -- who will prove effective when he officially succeeds Eisner at midnight Friday.

    "Bob has a terrific metabolism for that job," Bochco said. "He may not have been the exciting choice, given all of the drama that surrounded the whole issue of succession. But I think he is absolutely the right choice. He knows that company inside and out."

    In a sense, Iger is the flip side of Eisner, who had little compunction about roiling the corporate waters and seeking the spotlight. Iger is known for being more collegial than combative, a man who hopes to create a calmer environment in a company that has been through much upheaval in recent years.

    For all practical purposes, Iger, 54, already has put his mark on Disney. Soon after the board picked him in March, Eisner handed over the reins to the entertainment empire, whose theme parks, movies, television networks and consumer products generate more than $30 billion a year. He has drawn good reviews from company insiders, investors and analysts.

    For starters, Iger dismantled a strategic planning unit that many executives viewed as Eisner's right hand in micromanaging the company. He also began talks with Pixar Animation Studios chief Steve Jobs, who after clashing openly with Eisner had vowed to end Pixar's partnership with Disney.

    Iger negotiated a truce with Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold, former directors who led a shareholder revolt against Eisner.

    Lately, it seems, everyone loves Bob.

    Privately, however, some who have worked with Iger question whether he has the creative chops to replace Eisner, who since 1984 has guided Disney's revenue growth from $1.5 billion a year to more than 20 times that much. They rate Iger high on hard work and likability, but they are less enthusiastic about his prospects as CEO.

    A former associate described Iger as more technocrat than visionary. Another questioned whether his "great temperament and people skills" will translate to creative leadership.

    Iger declined requests for an interview.

    Through these doors

    Last fall, Iger sent an e-mail to the principal of Fulton Avenue School 8 in Oceanside, N.Y., as it prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Iger said "he'd heard about the celebration and had wonderful memories" of the school but could not attend the festivities.

    That surprised Principal Ronald Schoen because Iger hadn't been invited. What surprised him even more was Iger's sentimental connection to the school, which he attended 40 years earlier. In his e-mail, Iger asked Schoen whether the words, "America's hope for the future passes through these doors" still graced the school's entrance. Yes, the principal told Iger, who then sent another message.

    "He said, 'Isn't it amazing that a little boy of that age who walked through those doors could actually become president of Disney?' " Schoen said.

    Iger majored in broadcasting at Ithaca College in upstate New York, where he worked for the campus TV station and graduated magna cum laude.

    After a stint as a weatherman, Iger gave up his aspirations to be on the air and joined ABC as a studio supervisor in New York. He later moved to ABC Sports and became vice president of programming in 1987.

    Iger is now married to broadcast journalist Willow Bay, with whom he has two sons.

    Second-in-command

    In 1989, Iger moved to Los Angeles to head ABC's entertainment division, where he was involved with not only NYPD Blue but also the hit Home Improvement.

    In 1994, Iger was named president and chief operating officer of ABC. He was widely considered to be heir apparent to Capital Cities Chairman Tom Murphy. Then Murphy sold the company to Disney for $19 billion in 1996.

    Four years after moving to Disney with ABC, Iger became Eisner's second-in-command as president. In the five years since, the company has endured the shareholder revolt led by Roy Disney and Gold; survived a hostile takeover bid by Comcast Corp.; and been dragged through the embarrassing details of a lawsuit over Eisner's hiring and firing of Michael Ovitz, Iger's predecessor as president.

    Iger also had to weather reports that Eisner was repeatedly dismissive of him as his replacement. In a 1996 memo to the Disney board, Eisner said Iger "is not an enlightened or brilliantly creative man." He later expressed his support for Iger, calling him "an excellent guardian of the Disney assets."

    An eye for the bottom line

    In addition to finally getting Eisner's backing, Iger has benefited from Disney's return to double-digit earnings growth and the remarkable rebound of ABC. Looking ahead, Iger has said he will give a hard look to the money the company spends on its film operations. He also said he will concentrate on expanding Disney's international business. He has stressed in recent months that theme parks in Asia are high on his agenda, from the park that opened in Hong Kong this month and then most likely mainland China.

    One of Iger's biggest hurdles will be to distinguish himself from Eisner.

    Producer Brian Grazer said Iger had the benefit of observing "the aggressively creative" Eisner up close -- for good and bad -- and probably will use those observations to shape himself as a leader.

    Grazer, who has known Iger for 15 years, disputes the notion that he lacks creativity and says his penchant for privacy is sometimes misinterpreted. Iger has never been a guy to show up at every party, he said, and he doesn't expect that to change.

    "I don't think he wants that level of intimacy or sees the value in it," Grazer said. "He's just the worker. He's always been the worker. Now he's the worker and the CEO."

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    disneydame2004's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by devkxl
    Last fall, Iger sent an e-mail to the principal of Fulton Avenue School 8 in Oceanside, N.Y., as it prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Iger said "he'd heard about the celebration and had wonderful memories" of the school but could not attend the festivities.

    Iger majored in broadcasting at Ithaca College in upstate New York, where he worked for the campus TV station and graduated magna cum laude.

    I knew there was a reason to like the guy - he's a New Yorker! and a Long Islander to boot!

    The plan for more theme parks in Asia doesn't exactly excite me for the future, though. Hopefully he has more up his sleeve than that.
    -Pat (Disneydame2004)
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