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"iCon" offers great insights into Disney & Pixar's dealings

"iCon" offers great insights into Disney & Pixar's dealings

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It's the question that everyone in the entertainment industry has been asking: What happens with Pixar after Michael Eisner steps down as the head of the Walt Disney Company on September 30th? Will Disney's new CEO -- Bob Iger -- be able to persuade Steve Jobs to extend his animation studios' co-production & distribution deal with the Mouse House?

To be honest, nobody knows for sure right now. But -- if you'd like a better understanding of what's actually at stake here and/or want to be better informed about all the personalities involved -- I can think of no better book to pick up right now than Jeffrey S. Young & William L. Simon's "iCon -- Steve Jobs -- The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business" (Wiley, May 2005).

By that I mean: Jeffrey & William have really done their homework. They've tracked down specifics about the Disney/Pixar negotiations that I've never seen mentioned anywhere else. For example, you want the exact terms of what Jobs was asking Eisner for last year? Check out this excerpt:

"The line in the sand that we drew," Steve said, "was that we want to own our own films going forward, and we wanted to own 'The Incredibles' and 'Cars.' " These were the two remaining films in the renegotiated Disney-Pixar pact.

According to Steve, he offered Disney a deal "less favorable to us than we could get from several other studios -- for example, with much higher distribution fees, a much longer-term commitment, and free use of our characters in their theme parks." That was his public statement; In fact, he was demanding 92 percent of the profits. Describing the kind of distribution deal he was after, he said, "You rent a system." He wanted to rent the Disney marketing machine, not partner with it.

Steve must have known what Eisner's answer would be. The Walt Disney Company stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars by signing away the rights, shuitting itself out of not only money from ticket sales but also merchandise franchises, tie-ins and sequels. No CEO would have willingly sacrificed so much, even to save a valuable partnership.

"We're not for rent for anybody," Eisner said. He wanted a partnership, and in his mind it was Disney who brought the most to the table.

Or -- better yet -- how about the story about how former vice president Al Gore tried to heal the breach between Eisner & Jobs:

Negotiations devolved to the point that Al Gore attempted an intervention. Former vice president Gore joined Apple's board of directors in 2003 and offered to see if he could broker a peace betwenn Pixar and Disney, where he felt he had some connections, though these were on the feeble side. The company had donated "Beauty and the Beast" costumes to him and his wife for a Halloween party, and Gore, while still serving as vice president, had discussed legislation with Eisner. He called Disney board member George Mitchell, a former Democratic senator, and encouraged him to press forward in talks. Mitchell in turn called Eisner.

Gore's effort only raised Eisner's hackles. Not even a former vice president could convince him to make nice.

You'll find all sorts of amazing stories in "iCon." From the tale of how Jobs relentlessly nickel-and-dimed George Lucas 'til Steve was finally able to pick up Pixar for a 1/3rd of its original asking price, to the story about how former Disney studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg could have picked up this entire animation studio for just $15 million ... But then couldn't be bothered to actually make the deal.

There are literally dozens of stories like that be found inside of this 368-page non-fiction book. So if -- as they say in baseball -- you can't tell the player without a program, you really owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of "iCon -- Steve Jobs -- The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business."

Once you do, read the book to cover to cover. That way, once October 1st rolls around and Iger officially begins negotiating with Jobs ... Well, you'll have a better understanding of what Steve will be asking Bob for. Which -- near as I can figure -- will be heaven AND earth.

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