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Is Disney’s Bob Iger Worth $30 Million a Year?

Bob Iger

Blogs were abuzz last week after it was revealed that Disney CEO Bob Iger took home $30.6 million in salary and bonuses in 2008. So what exactly has Iger done since taking over the company in 2005? Fortune magazine recently published an article “Bob Iger rocks Disney” that talks about his accomplishments during the past few years.

While the studio has been financially successful with many of its projects–Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Jonas Brothers, Cars, “Princesses” and “Fairies” franchises–it could also be argued that most of these are short-sighted projects designed to cash in on popular trends. With the exception of some of John Lasseter’s initiatives, there appears to be little vision within the company for creating quality work that has long-term and multi-generational value. Is it any surprise that three of Disney’s four highest-grossing movies of the 2000s have been based on Pirates of the Caribbean, a theme park ride that opened over forty years ago at Disneyland.

Here are some noteworthy facts and figures I ran across in the Fortune piece:

* Iger’s two biggest strategic changes since taking over: One was his subtle but seismic decision to refocus the company and most of its more than 150,000 employees around its roster of ‘franchises,’ like the Jonas Brothers–Iger defines a franchise as ‘something that creates value across multiple businesses and across multiple territories over a long period of time.’ The second change was unsubtle: Just days into Iger’s new job, Disney acquired Pixar, bringing Apple’s Steve Jobs onto the company’s board in the process.

* Cars is an example of a Disney franchise that is successful on many levels: Three years after the movie came out, sales of [Cars] licensed merchandise are running at more than $2 billion annually. [The film only grossed $462 million worldwide.] A Cars sequel is in production. Disney will soon launch an elaborate Cars virtual world. But the biggest bet on Cars is Cars Land, a 12-acre stretch of Disney’s California Adventure theme park set to open in 2012.

* Iger has been getting rid of some middle-management: Internally, in a move treated like D-day, Iger dismantled a corporate strategic-planning department that had to clear most of the company’s major decisions. “When he took that job, Disney was really messed up,” recalls Jobs. “Bob looked at the guys running the divisions and said, ‘You’re in charge of your businesses now.'”

* Disney makes a lot of money from sports: Sports juggenaut ESPN–80% owned by Disney–is estimated by Doug Mitchelson of Deutsche Bank to have generated around one-third of the company’s $8.4 billion in 2008 operating income.

* Their classic franchises are not as big a part of the company as they once were: A decade ago the Mickey Mouse and Winnie-the-Pooh franchises accounted for 80% of the company’s consumer products business; today it’s closer to 50%.

* Disney is currently the most valuable media company in the world: Under Iger Disney has become the world’s largest media conglomerate by market value, worth around $40 billion.

* Steve Jobs, who is Disney’s largest individual shareholder with a 7% stake, likes Iger: “I consider Bob Iger a friend,” says Jobs. “I don’t have a lot of friends. I just really like him, and he’s a really solid guy.”