OK, we have record earnings, monster box office, still-solid TV ratings, a stock that keeps going up - the new Walt Disney Co. seems to be playing at the top of its game. So is this what happens when Michael Eisner leaves? Well, yes and no. BW gets into the Mouse House to examine the Bob Iger administration and discovers a bunch of things, most all of them flattering (I smell the heavy hand of Disney's PR department). In no particular order:
1)Don't expect a repeat of 2006's 33 percent jump in earnings. That was the year of "Cars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean:
Dead Man's Chest" - and it's not likely to happen in '07.
2)Looking to avoid the feast-or-famine nature of the film biz, Disney wants to rely on surer things, such as theme parks.
3)Forget about finding the "real Iger." Next to Eisner, reports Ron Grover, the guy is "bland, a scripted CEO who never shoots from the hip." While he's not considered a strategic thinker, the guy surrounds himself with smart people who tend to steer the ship. Even the press-shy Steve Jobs (Disney's largest shareholder) weighs in on the Iger style. "Bob lets [the person] who can handle the job get it done," says Jobs. "It's not [about grabbing] headlines. That's rare in that town."
4)Iger won't speak ill of Eisner. He even gives him credit for the company's current success. "I think fondly of Michael. I learned a lot from him," he says. "In a way, he founded the modern Walt Disney."
5)Much of what Iger has done involves corporate style. His office is more inviting than was Eisner's, he's out talking to the Disney rank-and-file, and he reaches out to former Disney people - including former studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg.
6)Iger isn't interested in petty disputes. He even brought back bad-cop enforcer Peter Murphy to negotiate a new cable deal with Comcast because Murphy knew the terrain so well.
7)He works out every morning at 4:30 at the Brentwood mansion (formerly owned by Michelle Pfeiffer and her TV writer husband, David E. Kelley).
8)All roads lead to digital, except, unlike other studio moguls who are just throwing spaghetti against the wall, Iger seems to really believe it. Part of that will be seen with the roll out of Disney.com.