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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March 2005, 14:54 GMT
Spotlight on Disney's new boss
By Mary Hennock
BBC News business reporter

Disney's new CEO, Robert Iger
Mr Iger is moving to centre stage
At first sight, Walt Disney Co's new chief executive could be a boardroom suit sent by central casting.

Among the welter of words inspired by his promotion, Robert Iger is typically described as "low-key", a quiet, calm man who has avoided the spotlight.

For the past five years, he has been seen as loyal lieutenant to his flamboyant boss, Michael Eisner.

His appointment has already drawn fury from two outspoken ex-directors, who have painted him as a dull shoe-in.

Others say Mr Iger is a diplomatic and approachable man who is popular with staff and has made strides to win over Wall Street during his long audition for the job.

Thoughtful or dull?

"Bob always raises the bar. He always asks questions that probe deeper, and make you work harder," the Los Angeles Times quoted Disney's Anne Sweeney as saying. She is co-chair of Disney's media networks division and has given several press interviews about her colleague.

ROBERT IGER
Born in New York, 1951
ABC studio supervisor, 1974
Vice president of ABC TV, 1988
ABC TV Network president, 1993
Joined Disney in 1995
Disney president, 2000
Disney CEO, 2005
Source: Walt Disney Co

"Where was Bob?" asked the same newspaper, wondering why Mr Iger had not spoken for himself. Sceptics wonder if he can thrive outside Mr Eisner's shadow.

Disney's top billing was declared open six months ago when shareholder pressure forced Mr Eisner to issue early departure plans, which have now been brought forward by a year.

Mr Eisner will certainly be a hard act to follow. Brash and blunt, he pushed bold strategies that upset traditionalists, feuded publicly with colleagues and hogged the limelight.

Big picture

Mostly, it worked. Despite his recent troubles, he turned Walt Disney from a company with revenues of $1.5bn a year when he took over 21 years ago to $30.7bn in 2004.

Robert Iger and Minnie Mouse at the Disney channel's Japan launch in 2003
Introducing the Disney Channel to Asian audiences

He decided early on to distribute Disney's cartoons on video cassettes, creating a huge new market, millions of grateful parents, and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

His biggest acquisition came in 1995 when he bought the ABC television business for $19bn, bringing its boss Mr Iger into Disney to oversee the merger.

Disney's empire includes film - Walt Disney Pictures, Miramax Studios, Touchstone Pictures - theme parks, resorts, cruise lines and merchandising, as well as TV and cable businesses such as ABC, Disney Channel and the ESPN sports network.

Television drama

Mr Iger has relatively little experience of the movies and theme parks side of the business, which accounts for more than half its sales.

DISNEY EMPIRE
Walt Disney Pictures
DisneyToon Studios
Miramax Films
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Touchstone Pictures
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Toys
Hyperion Books
ABC TV channels
ESPN sports news
Source: Walt Disney Co

He has spent most of his life in television, starting as a TV weatherman and sports producer, and rising to be ABC's president. TV provides roughly one third of Disney's income.

Ironically, ABC lost nearly a quarter of its audience in 2002, sparking Mr Eisner's fight for survival after a drop in Disney's group sales in 2001. Given his close links to the channel, Mr Iger's reputation suffered too.

But ABC has bounced back with popular shows such as Desperate Housewives, which has drawn in younger viewers loved by advertisers.

Future shape

Although Disney is recovering, its problems are far from over. Some analysts think Mr Iger's promotion will bring a steady hand on the tiller.

"From the point of view of the way the businesses were this was not a broken situation," said Larry Haverty, a fund manager at Gabelli & Co. "I think the board did the right thing."

One problem Mr Iger will have to solve is the future of Disney's famous cartoons business. A rift with Pixar Animation is set to bring an end to the partnership that produced Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

Mr Iger is also rumoured to have surprises up his sleeve. He is said to be fascinated by technology and has used plentiful foreign trips (Mr Eisner disliked travelling) to explore the newly affluent Asian market.

As head of the international business, he launched the Disney Channel in Japan and India, which also got DisneyToon and is home to more than 100 million pre-teens. DisneyWorld is due to open in Hong Kong, and China is under consideration.





SEE ALSO
New Disney boss as Eisner ousted
14 Mar 05 |  Business
Disney rebels attack boss search
10 Mar 05 |  Business
TV success fuels Disney profits
31 Jan 05 |  Business
Disney launches India TV channels
17 Dec 04 |  South Asia
TV networks buoy Disney profits
19 Nov 04 |  Business
Disney boss prepares to step down
10 Sep 04 |  Business

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