Thursday, Jun. 14, 2007 By SONJA STEPTOE / BURBANK
Walt Disney chief executive Bob Iger is the antithesis of a brash showman. At last January's Consumer Electronics Show, a high-tech hype-fest in Las Vegas, another CEO peddled a two-wheeler onstage to tout his company's new bicycle-powered cell-phone charger. The understated Iger, wearing spectacles, a dark suit and white shirt, talked about strategy and happily let Pirates of the Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer, ESPN commentators and Lost cast members take the lead in unveiling Disney's multimedia-entertainment fare.
When Iger took over the top job at Disney in 2005, many dismissed the new chief, a onetime local-TV weatherman who had risen steadily through the corporate ranks, as a lackey of the previous CEO, the notoriously difficult Michael Eisner, whose boldness was often considered an asset. Many inside and outside Disney questioned whether Iger, 56, had the maverick's instincts to run the storied company. Shareholders Stanley Gold and Roy Disney even filed a lawsuit to void his election by Disney's directors.
What Iger lacks in personal pizazz, however, he has made up for in strategic smarts. He's charting an ambitious course to recast the 84-year-old former cartoon studio as a creatively nimble, technologically savvy global-entertainment company. The results so far have won over even jaded money managers and analysts. Disney's stock has soared 42% since Iger took over, and its profits in the first half of fiscal 2007 jumped 79% over last year, to $2.63 billion. More important, "He has succeeded in persuading the Street to think of him as a technologist," says David Miller, media-and- entertainment analyst at SMH Capital. That's a new and crucial part of the CEO job description at Disney, where creativity and dealmaking have traditionally been more essential.
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