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First, a brief primer on the story alluded to in the opening story. Bob Iger rose up the ranks of the American Broadcasting Company — you know, ABC — throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Even before he joined the Walt Disney Company (when Disney purchased ABC’s parent company Capital Cities in 1995), Iger was well-known among the most passionate of TV fans for having been the man who a) greenlit the influential TV drama “Twin Peaks” and b) canceled the influential TV drama “Twin Peaks.” But Iger swiftly aimed higher with his ambitions once ABC became a part of Disney proper. After serving as ABC’s chairman for four years, Iger was bumped up to serve as the second-in-command to Disney CEO Michael Eisner in the year 2000, as president and chief operating officer. You might presume that being installed as Eisner’s number-two meant Iger was well-respected by his boss, and one specific source on the subject — the essential book “DisneyWar” by James B. Stewart — would clarify that you would be wrong.
As Stewart wrote, Iger had to “overcome Eisner’s deep-seated anxiety about being upstaged by a strong number two,” and had to deal with various slights by Eisner during their joint time at the studio. But Iger didn’t so much take over at Disney because Eisner rode off into the sunset, as much as take over a potentially sinking ship when the captain was removed by force. In the early 2000s, Roy E. Disney — the nephew of Uncle Walt himself — was still alive and kicking, and particularly incensed about the way Eisner was running his family company. (“DisneyWar,” it should be noted, is a genuinely invaluable resource on the subject.)
So Disney, near the end of 2003, resigned from the company bearing his name and issued a very public, very blunt letter about the poor management of Michael Eisner. The next year, he would, along with former Disney board member Stanley Gold, kickstart a public campaign and website, named “save Disney,” in the hopes of ousting Eisner. When the 2004 shareholders’ meeting resulted in 43 percent of shareholders voting against Eisner being re-elected to the board of directors. It was a sign that Eisner’s time was limited, with his successor being that strong number two: Iger.