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.”


  • http://www.losetheradio.net Roman

    I think overall, Iger has been fine for Disney. He hasn’t (from what I have heard) stifled or ruined any good projects. And while a lot of his financial success has come from the Tween Angels, I see no problem with them helping to pay to keep Disneyland/Disney World and the animation going.

    The animation business wants nothing to do with creating timeless features like Pinocchio, they, like the rest of the movie business, want to make money, and gobs of it, as quickly as possible. Heck, even back in the golden age, no one imagined they were making movies that would be watched for generations.

    And sometimes, films that are looked down upon during their initial run, become evergreen. I could see “Cars” being very popular with young boys for many, many years to come.

  • http://blog.ninapaley.com Nina Paley

    “Princesses” and “Fairies” franchises—it could also be argued that most of these are short-sighted projects designed to cash in on popular trends.

    The Fairy franchise isn’t short-sighted. Fairies are forever.

  • Sam Filstrup

    No one man needs that much money a year, as for what he’s done for the company beats me I haven’t really seen that big of a change from when Eisner left. Apparently he’s done a few things by this list but disney animation films I’ve yet to see, didn’t get the chance to see Bolt yet. Although I wanted to.

  • Sean

    So… whatever happened to Antitrust laws?

  • Charles

    I think it’s time we stop holding disney to a golden pedistal of high quality standards. Innovation isn’t going to come from some big company. Best to forget about the mouse, and move forward.

  • Jay Taylor

    The economy is in the crapper, everyone is struggling, and we’re talking about if Bob Iger deserves $30 million a year? Boy, I wonder what it’s like to live on another planet.

  • http://deleted OtherDan

    If Iger is worth $30mil, then I figure I’m worth $10mil.

  • Nicole Mendes

    That was an interesting article, Amid. I could really use $30 million a year right now, so I sympathize with the guy. Didn’t Disney decide to reopen their in-house animation studio in his reign?

  • http://mrdarbyshire.blogspot.com Michael

    What a coincidence- I just read one of those “Celebrity Salaries” articles yesterday.

    Iger makes only $5 million more than Judge Judy.

  • Tuesday

    I’m certain the guy is an absolute mensch but his compensation is enough money for twenty lifetimes. In Europe they are aghast at America’s corporate executive overpayment.

  • http://gagaman.blogspot.com/ Aaron Foster

    Micheal: Wow, that’s makes Judge Judy’s salary look even more ridiculous than Igers (which is still insane). O_O

  • Paul N

    Heck, I’ll do the job for half as much…

  • elan

    The thing we’re forgetting is….

    It’s very unlikely any of us, or anyone really, could be the CEO of Disney. Dont undercut the intelligence and ability that it takes to run one of the worlds largest companies, otherwise we’d all do it. It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, or but it’s true.

    Granted, considering today’s economic hardships, it would probably be a good gesture for him to be more realistic with his compensation package, and it would go over well with the business world if he self-regulated. But what we’re talking about here is capitalism, through and through. He makes that much because he’s literally worth that much, and any amount of bickering aint gonna change that.

  • http://www.filmbuffonline.com Rich Drees

    Iger canceled TWIN PEAKS while keeping FULL HOUSE on the air for years. He doesn’t deserve 10 cents a year…

    (Yeah, I don’t hold a grudge… ;) )

  • http://deleted OtherDan

    I don’t know…I think Elan wants a date.

  • Fred Cline

    30 million is a pittance compared to the 100 million that Ovitz reaped from his 1 year stint.

  • http://Mr.FunsBlog Floyd Norman

    Love ya’ Bob, but when Steve Jobs returned to Apple back in 1998 he decided to take one dollar a year in salary.

    I’m just sayin’…

  • http://end-of-something.blogspot.com andy

    I have to say, I’m not bothered by the fact that the head of a $40 billion conglomerate is compensated with $0.03 billion a year. Is he worth it? From my vantage point it seems he’s doing a good job, trying to maintain a balance between short-lived cash cows, the creation of long term ‘classics’, and proper utilization of amazing past assets.

  • http://ryanmcculloch.com Ryan McCulloch

    I’m all for anyone in the animation industry, any animator or anyone employing animators making as much as possible. Hopefully one day I will!

  • debra jean solomon

    None of these CEO”S or heads of banks , hedge funds deserve the bloated salaries they get . Thats why the entire economy is in the crapper.

    This is a business culture where CEO’s have awarded themselves bonuses and stock options way beyond what they should get … but they sit on boards with other CEOS and they all stroke each other … till the Kitties have all the money in the till.

  • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

    At least now, Disney has a leader that deserves that crap-load of money.

  • Pedro Nakama

    I would like to see Steve Jobs as the CEO of Disney but he’s probably not going to live past this year. : (

  • Graham

    Beverly Hills Chihuahua + Jonas brothers + Hanna Montana = $30 million material

  • http://deleted OtherDan

    Pedro, come on now. That’s messed up: I’m not voting for you.

  • Mark McD

    Let’s face it. Iger is more answerable to shareholders than to art. If he pushes short-lived commercial product that makes a huge return THIS QUARTER, he has indeed earned his $30 million. Reminded me of the last episode of “Dinosaurs,” where the Wesayso Corp.’s heavy handed industries ended up ingniting a Wesayso nuclear device, causing a nuclear winter that would end up making the dinosaurs extinct. “But our profits of heating fuel will go through the roof in the second quarter!” exclaims Earl’s boss, Mr. Ritchfield. “What about the third quarter?” asks Earl. “Ahh, I don’t sweat the long-range stuff!” was the as-far-as-I-recall response.

  • Rio

    If you could get a job that paid 30 million, would you negotiate yourself into minimum wage?

    CEO of the largest media conglomerate is not brainless burger-flipping.

    The company value is worth 40 BILLION. Let’s keep that number in perspective before deciding that the CEO is overpaid.

  • tgentry

    Cars is VERY big with my 2 year old. It really connected with him in a way not many other shows or movies have. We have seen it about 100 times at least, and the funny thing is I like it more now than the first time I saw it. I still laugh at the funny parts, catch things I never noticed before, and strangely enough am really looking forward to the sequel. The Cars short that came out in front of Bolt was really well done as well. I think Cars will be a money juggernaut for many, many years to come.

    Seems while Iger isn’t doing much to stifle creativity at Disney, he’s not promoting it much either. I think you just have to face it: Pixar is the new Disney. That magic that the Disney company had is gone. I don’t think it will ever return. Heck they had to go buy it from somewhere else. As long as they don’t tinker with Pixar and let them do their thing, I can live with that.

  • http://deleted OtherDan

    Tgenty, I disagree. If I have to be serious about something as obscene as a $30mil salary: I think Iger is doing a great job at reframing the groundwork that was displaced. In our dismal global economy all you can “hope” for is a restructuring with long term dividends. In that regard he is bringing in all the right people and doing all the right things in my opinion. These things will take time. But, as Disney is so huge, it seems to me that the changes being made are widespread, and should all pay off when things return to “normal”. Pixar adopted the core principle of quality that Disney was based on. So, to return to that is not necessarily Disney becoming Pixar. Particularly because Pixar is Disney now.

  • Kevin Martinez

    I don’t get it, in 2004-05 we were bitching about Eisner, and now we’re bitching about Iger making $30 million when he has yet to make any really egregious administrative decisions.

    Are animators not happy unless there’s something or someone to kvetch about?

  • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

    “Are animators not happy unless there’s something or someone to kvetch about?”

    Obviously so.

    Sometimes, I think animators enjoy being miserable.

  • Bugsmer

    “Sometimes, I think animators enjoy being miserable.”

    Perhaps this adds to their creativity. Once a “starving artist” is no longer starving, his work has a tendency to go down the tubes. The work of Chuck Jones in his later years never came anywhere near the quality of his earlier works, when he had to work for a living. The more comfortable one becomes, the lazier one gets, to the point of sitting back relaxing instead of climbing new mountains. Let the artists be miserable, if it helps them to create and make us happy. Later, when the artist is well fed and elderly, people can tell him how much they were entertained by him.

  • JoPat

    This entry got me around thinking, based not on the topic of Robert Iger but of certain parts in particular:

    -About how current hit “franchises” only seem to cash in on current trends, about as far away from “long-term and multi-generational value” as you can get. Despite what Mr. Iger sez.
    -And how as of right now, classic characters have diminishing value.

    Now, I grew up around a popular franchise called “The Disney Afternoon”, including various series which put modern spins on classic characters. That was well done and caught on at the time for a reason, and isn’t being implemented today because these media executives seem to have a low opinion of kids. You know, the part where an old piece of animation that isn’t necessarily “shiny and new” would be absolutely worthless to them. (That’s sad and I wish/hope it isn’t true.) They could try implementing new shows that would follow the same concept, but I’m not so sure that would work, either.

    Part of that is because of the currently popular live-action franchises, which aggressively push pop music as a tie-in. (Emphasis on the “tie-in” part and the “franchise” of course, which both represent the millions Disney makes. That in turn represents this segment of the company being the “favorite child”, if you will.) It doesn’t seem to matter how good or bad the show is, the only thing these kids are really paying attention to are the young stars and their favorite songs being performed. Of course, these young stars will get older and outgrow doing stuff for Disney. People like Miley Cyrus or Zac Efron will move on to other works, and possibly get the same kind of respect that Justin Timberlake gets today. Their franchises obviously would be retired, and won’t be heard from again until the current kid generation is past their college years, riffing about it ala “The Nostalgia Critic”. (The same guy Mr. Beck spoke of a few times.) When that happens, Disney will (unfortunately) implement their new business strategy where they find another young star to take the place of the outgoing one, of course to start a new franchise.

    To say that this strategy redefines the word “disposable” would just be a statement of the obvious.

    Still, there are some directions in which I would like to see such strategies go. Of course, it’s wishful thinking, but it’s also remarkably likely.

    1. The process of searching for a new “good” talent by spending tons of money would bleed Disney dry. Eventually, they just drop it because other divisions of the company are more profitable. But, the second option is far more likely to grow out of this dilemma.
    2. These executives start making shortcuts in this process. They simply grab any old prettyboy or hot chick out of the crowd and manufacturing a star out of him/her. I would love to see such a quote-unquote “star” become a PR nightmare, then disaster, then apocalypse for these executives. Perhaps because their lip-sync or something would go wrong at a live-performance. Who knows? Maybe this would be the way that Mr. Iger will eventually resign.
    3. And this one I am the most hopeful for: That future generations of kids simply attach themselves to the classic characters instead of whatever pop star Disney forks out. That is fairly likely, I’m happy to say because today’s preschoolers are exposed to these legends on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” (regardless of any visual inferiority in the computer animation). I mean, my cousin’s baby boy has developed a liking for Mickey Mouse. And furthermore, as Peter Paltridge has said (by the way, another man that Mr. Beck has recommended in the past), history is cyclical and the same situations can happen over and over. Today’s kids may love the live-action franchises, so the media companies emphasize on them for children’s shows, but the same situation as Mr. Paltridge pointed out existed in the 1970′s! Maybe if modern civilization lasts long enough, future kid generations will be very attached to the great cartoon characters!

    At least, I hope these situations come to pass.

  • OtherDan

    Sometimes it’s feels good to be right. I came across this article about Iger that supports my gut feeling (about midway on it pertains more to animation):

    http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/02/news/newsmakers/siklos_eisner.fortune/index.htm

    After reading that article, if I could offer one piece of advice to Iger it would be to lessen his apparent focus on franchising-especially with animation. Part of why I think Disney went astray is because it saturated the market with inconsistent quality. Franchises have a tendency to feel overly “produced” and loose that raw quality that keeps things fresh and new.

  • Marc Baker

    ‘Seems while Iger isn’t doing much to stifle creativity at Disney, he’s not promoting it much either. I think you just have to face it: Pixar is the new Disney. That magic that the Disney company had is gone. I don’t think it will ever return. Heck they had to go buy it from somewhere else.’

    That’s pretty much how i see Disney right now. All they seem to do is maunfacture ‘tween’ idols rather than create good lasting works. (Animation, or otherwise.) Since they bought Pixar, they decided to become lazy, and let them make all the good animation while they just sit back, and exploit more tween idols until they become fodder for the tabloids in their adult years.

    ‘Now, I grew up around a popular franchise called “The Disney Afternoon”, including various series which put modern spins on classic characters. That was well done and caught on at the time for a reason, and isn’t being implemented today because these media executives seem to have a low opinion of kids. You know, the part where an old piece of animation that isn’t necessarily “shiny and new” would be absolutely worthless to them. (That’s sad and I wish/hope it isn’t true.) They could try implementing new shows that would follow the same concept, but I’m not so sure that would work, either.’

    Good point, I really miss those shows, and it’s a shame that disney couldn’t make cartoon shows in the vane of ‘Ducktales’, Rescue Rangers’, ‘Goof Troop’, ‘Darkwing Duck’, or ‘gargoyles’ anymore.

    ‘People like Miley Cyrus or Zac Efron will move on to other works, and possibly get the same kind of respect that Justin Timberlake gets today. Their franchises obviously would be retired, and won’t be heard from again until the current kid generation is past their college years, riffing about it ala “The Nostalgia Critic”.’

    I would LOVE to see The Nostalgia Critic tears those kids apart, and i’ll gladly wait when that actually happens.

  • http://bobIger Jeanne Pickering

    Dear Mr. Iger,
    I saw you on the View when you showed the MM watch you bought. When you stated that Walt Disney backed the company during hard times so the watches could be produced, I had a marvelous idea!!! My family and I are DVC members and Disney loyals, we, however, become so sad to see the enormus prices on articles that are made in CHINA and cost Disney very little.
    Wouldn’t it be WONDERFUL if Disney could back USA products that would not contain lead and other harmful ingredients, help OUR country get back on it’s feet, AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, be sure our children & grandchildren are putting things in their mouth that do not cause illness.. Our country has protections for us and we need to get back to producing not importing!!! Please consider this… I believe you are a good man, and I feel if Walt were alive HE would be patriotic enough to do the right thing for us and our country. and, yes, STILL make money….. Thank you Jeanne Pickering

  • Devin MacGregor

    I see this all over … is the CEO worth that amount. Then someone wants to go to the other extreme and act like they are supposed to put themselves into poverty and compare their job to burger flippers. Then other yet want to compare the total the company makes and imply what the CEO makes is pittance of that. Then further yet others want to imply these are unique individuals.

    None of the above is true. Most of us do not get the opportunity hence why most of us will never be a CEO. It is not that a HELL of a lot of us have the amplitude it is we just will never get the opportunity.

    There once was a question of was Bill Gates worth 80 billion. The same kinds of comments as I noted above were made. Billy made people millionaires was another comment.

    People often think or imply that these CEOs do all the work and everyone else is just a drone waiting for the CEO to tell them the next step. The CEO says I think we should big a boat. ALL those under them implement building of that boat. The same with Bill Gates. He as one of the co founders did not solely build MS but his co founders had no money so they paid those that created for them in worthless at the time stock. The workers themselves then worked their asses off to make the company. So in essence they made themselves millionaires because Billy did not pay them in millionaire stock and had no idea if it would be worth more in the future.

    The question lies as in how much do the rest of the company make? Will they benefit from all this or will they be subject to layoffs and reductions of pay. Will they be discarded as yesterdays pay and/or outsourced into a dead end job. Disney is a caste society as well with many “green” badges coming and going. A measurement of any company is not simply what a CEO does for the shareholders but how it treats the least of its employees. Capitalism doesn’t matter. To make any such comment that this is just capitalism means it is ok to poop on people. That measurement goes for any nation as well.

    Iger could make 10 million a year or even 1 and that is no where near poverty. This goes for all the CEOs. People have simply lost touch in the reality of income disparity in this country. People get what they get. Deserve is simply to subjective.