Robert Allen Iger (/ˈaɪɡər/; born February 10, 1951) is an American businessman who is executive chairman, chairman of the board, and former CEO (2005–2020) of The Walt Disney Company. He previously served as president of ABC Television from 1994–1995 and as president/COO of Capital Cities/ABC from 1995 until its acquisition by Disney in 1996. Iger was named president/COO of Disney in 2000 and succeeded Michael Eisner as CEO in 2005.
He was raised in Oceanside, where he attended the Fulton Avenue School and graduated from Oceanside High School in 1969. Iger developed a love of books from a young age. In 1973, he graduated magna cum laude from the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Television and Radio.
Iger began his media career in 1972 as the host of Campus Probe, an Ithaca College television show. He dreamed of becoming a news anchor while he worked as a weatherman in Ithaca for five months, before shifting his career goals.
In 1974, Iger joined the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). His first job was performing menial labor on television sets for $150 a week (over $700, adjusted for inflation).
In 1988, Iger served as the senior program executive for the Calgary Winter Olympics. The event was marred by disruptive weather and delayed events, and to fill the broadcast schedule Iger's team focused on human interest stories such as those of the Jamaican bobsled team & Eddie the Eagle. The event achieved record high ratings for ABC, and Iger's performance under pressure caught the attention of ABC executives Daniel Burke & Thomas Murphy, who subsequently championed Iger throughout his ascent at ABC.
In 1989, he was named head of ABC Entertainment. He served as president of the ABC Network Television Group from January 1993 to 1994, and was appointed as Capital Cities/ABC senior vice president in March 1993 and executive vice president in July 1993. In 1994, Iger was named president and chief operating officer of ABC's corporate parent, Capital Cities/ABC.
In 1995, the Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC and renamed it ABC, Inc., where Iger remained president until 1999.
In 1995, Iger married journalist Willow Bay in an interfaith Jewish and Roman Catholic service in Bridgehampton, New York. They have two children: Robert Maxwell "Max" Iger (born 1998) and William Iger (born 2002).
Disney named Iger the president and chief operating officer (COO) on January 24, 2000, making him Disney's No. 2 executive under chairman and CEO, Michael Eisner. Disney had been without a separate president since Eisner assumed the role following the departure of Michael Ovitz in 1997, after sixteen months at Disney.
On February 25, 1999, Disney named Iger the president of Walt Disney International, the business unit that oversees Disney's international operations, as well as chairman of the ABC Group, removing him from day-to-day authority at ABC. Disney called the change a promotion for Iger.
During his 15-year tenure as CEO, Iger broadened Disney's roster of intellectual properties and its presence in international markets. He oversaw the acquisitions of Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion, Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $4 billion, Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.06 billion, and the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox in 2019 for $71.3 billion. Iger also expanded the company's theme park resorts in East Asia, with the introduction of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Shanghai Disney Resort in 2005 and 2016, respectively. He was a driving force behind the reinvigoration of Walt Disney Animation Studios and the branded-release strategy of its film studio's output.
As a result of a successful effort by Roy E. Disney to shake up the management of the company, Disney began a search for the next CEO to replace Eisner. On March 13, 2005, Disney announced that Iger would succeed Michael Eisner as CEO, and Iger was placed in charge of day-to-day operations, though Eisner held the title of CEO until he resigned on September 30, 2005. One of Iger's first major decisions as CEO was to reassign Disney's chief strategic officer, Peter Murphy, and disband the company's Strategic Planning division. Prior to Iger being named CEO, board members Roy E. Disney and Stanley Gold began a campaign called "save Disney" against Eisner. In July 2005, Disney and Gold dropped the campaign and agreed to work with Iger.
Also in 2006, Roy E. Disney issued this statement regarding Iger:
On January 24, 2006, under Iger's leadership, Disney announced it would acquire Pixar for $7.4 billion in an all-stock transaction. In the same year, Iger also re-acquired the rights to Walt Disney's first star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, from NBCUniversal by releasing sportscaster Al Michaels from ABC Sports to NBC Sports.
In August 2009, Iger spearheaded negotiations that led Disney to acquire Marvel Entertainment and its associated assets for $4 billion. As of August 2014, Disney has recouped over $4 billion at the box office through the Marvel movies. On October 7, 2011, Disney announced that Iger would become chairman of the board, following John Pepper's retirement from the board in March 2012. On Tuesday November 15, 2011, Apple, Inc., led by CEO Tim Cook, named Iger to its board of directors. Iger was responsible for making Steve Jobs Disney's largest shareholder by its acquisition of Pixar.
In June 2012, Steven Spielberg, noted director and founder of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, presented Iger with the Ambassador for Humanity Award. Iger was recognized for his support of the Institute's work, his longtime philanthropy, and his leadership role in corporate citizenship. Iger was presented with The Milestone Award from the Producers Guild of America (PGA) in 2014. The award is the PGA's highest recognition for an individual or team who has made contributions to entertainment.
In October 2012, Iger signed a deal with film producer George Lucas to purchase Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4 billion following several months of negotiations. As a result, Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars multimedia franchise and Indiana Jones. Following its release on December 18, 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens grossed over $2 billion at the box office. In March 2016, Iger announced that the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort would open its doors on June 16, 2016. In May 2016, Iger wrote in a Facebook post claiming that Disney has hired 11,000 new employees in the past decade at Disneyland, and 18,000 in the past decade. Iger specifically targeted Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, asking him how much he has contributed to job growth.
In May 2015, Iger was named to the 25th Annual Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. In October 2015, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) inducted Iger into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. He was selected by members of TIA in recognition of his contributions to the industry, and the impact his work has had on the lives of children worldwide.
In 2016, Iger switched his party registration from Democratic to independent (no party affiliation).
Iger co-chaired a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign on August 22, 2016. He was named to President-elect Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum on December 2, 2016. He resigned from President Trump's Advisory Council on June 1, 2017 after President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.
In 2017, Variety reported that Iger knew about a 2010 Oscar party where Pixar chief John Lasseter was seen "making out with a junior staffer", seeming to confirm anonymous allegations that Lasseter's inappropriate interactions with young women had been known to company leadership since the 1990s. One anonymous source was quoted as saying, "I know personally that Bob was aware. ... Everybody was aware. They just didn't do anything about it."
Iger's contract as Disney's chairman and CEO was originally planned to run until June 30, 2018; however, in March 2017, Disney announced that it was extending Iger's term to July 2, 2019, and said he would serve as a consultant for the following three years. In December 2017, Disney extended Iger's contract through 2021.
In July 2018, under Iger's leadership, Disney and 21st Century Fox shareholders approved a deal to allow Disney to purchase Fox assets. The deal was finalized in March 2019.
In 2019, Vanity Fair reported that actress Paz de la Huerta added Iger to her lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein over allegations of rape, claiming that he and previous CEO Michael Eisner "made a series of decisions that allowed a range of actions by Harvey Weinstein that unacceptably harmed certain employees". Disney denied any knowledge of misconduct or settlements with victims during Weinstein's run at Miramax from 1993 to 2005.
In April 2019, it was announced that Iger will depart from his position as CEO and chairman of Disney when his contract expires in 2021. Iger resigned from Apple's board of directors on September 10, 2019, in order to avoid a conflict of interest as Disney and Apple prepare to launch competing streaming services Disney+ and Apple TV+.
In September 2019, Iger released a memoir titled The Ride of a Lifetime which, in part, focuses on Iger's years-long efforts to open Shanghai Disneyland Park; overall, he traveled to China 40 times over 18 years for the project.
In December 2019, Iger was named by Time as their Businessperson of the Year. In 2020, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
On February 25, 2020, Bob Chapek was named his successor as Disney CEO. Iger will continue to serve as Executive Chairman until December 31, 2021. Under Iger's leadership, Disney's market capitalization increased from $48 billion to $257 billion.
On February 25, 2020, Iger stepped down from CEO of the company, stating "With the successful launch of Disney's direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO." In April 2020, however, Iger resumed operational duties of the company as executive chairman to help the company through the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October 2020, he became a director of massively-funded dairy-replacement startup Perfect Day.
In January 2021, he donated $5 million to aid small businesses struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.