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Bob Iger says his return to Disney was inspired by Steve Jobs' Apple recovery

Steve Jobs (left) and Bob Iger

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As Disney lays off employees and cuts costs, CEO Bob Iger says be believes that it was watching Steve Jobs's return to Apple that is helping him manage the changes for the best.

Just as Steve Jobs left Apple and later came back to rescue it, so Bob Iger retired from Disney but has recently been hired again to oversee the firm in its present turbulent times. In a new interview with Time magazine, he says that he has looked to how Jobs managed to cut back at Apple, and Pixar, while protecting what those firms were about.

"The person that I think most of, that I was fortunate enough to have observed very closely, is Steve Jobs," said Iger. "He was brought back to a company that he had founded — very different circumstances. But speaking with him when I did, and reflecting on what his experiences were — I've taken a lot from that."

"One is when you are brought back, and you agree to come back, you have to do so with unbelievable enthusiasm, and not an ounce of hesitation," he continued. "And then you have to know very quickly what it is you're expected to accomplish and what it is you can accomplish."

"And then go at it with incredible resolve, incredible zeal, and incredible energy," added Iger.

Saying that after 50 years in the entertainment industry, he can "still marvel at creativity in its highest form," Iger also notes that for all his experience at Disney, "I'm also well aware that today's environment is different."

Cutting costs at Disney

"I was brought back for a reason," he said. "The company had gone through a very difficult period, exacerbated by global pandemic, and more than anything, the company needed stability."

Part of that involves a self-imposed requirement to cut $5.5 billion from Disney's annual budget.

"Reducing cost is not necessarily one's favorite thing to do in running a company," says Iger. "It is a necessary thing to do often, particularly as conditions change, [but] it's not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish."

"It does force a discipline and a focus," he continued. "[You] take a creatively driven company and you apply technology the way Pixar did, and you suddenly end up with this combination that Steve Jobs talked about."

"What really made Steve's heart sing, as he said it, was a combination of great creativity with great technology," says Iger, "and you look at Pixar and what they did and that combination enabled them to remain relevant without changing any storytelling values."

While Iger was retired, he famously said that Disney and Apple would have merged if Steve Jobs had lived. There are still persistent rumors that Apple will, or perhaps just should, buy Disney, but it remains unlikely.