Steve Jobs's Magic Kingdom
Business Week 1/26/06


Steve Jobs's Magic Kingdom


How Apple's demanding visionary will shake up Disney and the world of entertainment

Early on a July workday in 1997, Jim McCluney, then head of Apple's worldwide operations got the call. McCluney was summoned with other top brass of the beleaguered company to Apple Computer's boardroom on its Cupertino (Calif.) campus. Embattled Chief Executive Gil Amelio wasted no time. With an air of barely concealed relief, he said: "Well, I'm sad to report that it's time for me to move on. Take care," McCluney recalls. And he left.

A few minutes later, in walked Steve Jobs. The co-founder of the once proud company had been fired by Apple 12 years before. He had returned seven months earlier as a consultant, when Amelio acquired his Next Software. And now Jobs was back in charge. Wearing shorts, sneakers, and a few days' growth of beard, he sat down in a swivel chair and spun slowly, says McCluney, now president of storage provider Emulex.

"O.K., tell me what's wrong with this place," Jobs said. After some mumbled replies, he jumped in: "It's the products! So what's wrong with the products?" Again, executives began offering some answers. Jobs cut them off. "The products suck!" he roared. "There's no sex in them anymore!"



FULL OF PROMISE. The one-time enfant terrible of the technology world has calmed down considerably en route to becoming a 50-year-old billionaire. But what hasn't changed is his passion for doing, and saying, just about anything to help create the kinds of products that consumers love. In the nine years since Jobs returned to Apple, his unique modus operandi has sparked broad changes in the world of music, movies, and technology.

Now, Jobs is stepping into the Magic Kingdom. On Jan. 24, Walt Disney agreed to pay $7.4 billion in stock to acquire Pixar Animation Studios, where Jobs is chairman, CEO, and 50.6% owner. As part of the deal, Jobs will become the largest shareholder at Disney and take a seat on the entertainment giant's board. His top creative executive at Pixar, John A. Lasseter, will oversee the movies at both Pixar's and Disney's animation studios. Pixar's president, Edwin Catmull, will run the business side for the two studios.

The alliance between Jobs and Disney is full of promise. If he can bring to Disney the same kind of industry-shaking, boundary-busting energy that has lifted Apple and Pixar sky-high, he could help the staid company become the leading laboratory for media convergence.



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