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Takeaways from the Book The Ride of A Lifetime by Bob Iger (Disney)

Takeaways from the Book The Ride of A Lifetime by Bob Iger (Disney)

The Ride of A Lifetime – Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Bob Iger is the fourth book that I’ve read this year and I must say, it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It is thrilling, exciting, genuine, and yet not “salesy”. It is not those typical finance books that teach you how to invest or how to get ahead in life. In my opinion, this book comes to life when you start reading the first few chapters and gets you hook on it. Then again, like with investing, books are very personal so it may not be for you.

I remember since young, I’ve always had a thing for theme parks and Disney was one of them that stood out well. I have been to Hong Kong Disneyland with my family during my JC days, and subsequently Disneyland Paris during my exchange program. I have yet to visit the Tokyo Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida though.

Source: Finance and Toast. Went to Disneyland Paris in 2014 while on exchange. 

This book gives you a great perspective on what it is like to be a CEO at one of the Fortune 500 company, and the more you read, the more you will understand the different moving parts of Disney and how it is a behemoth.

Below are some of the key takeaways / insights that I’ve learned through reading this book.


A. Disney is more than just theme parks and movies

Disney is more than just theme parks and movies that you see. It comprises Pixar, Marvel, Lucas Films, and 21st Century Fox. At one point, they wanted to buy Twitter as well to build up their tech capabilities (but subsequently decided to drop the deal as there were too much risks involved). This gives them scale, depth, and penetration into different markets like:

  • Movies (Walt Disney Animation, Disney Studios, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 21st Century Fox, Fox 2000, Fox Searchlight)
  • Television (ABC, ABC News, Disney Channels, Freeform, FX, NatGeo)
  • Sports (ESPN)
  • Tech (BAMtech)

There is a reason why most people love Disney simply because they have been doing a lot of things right.

Source: Disney


B. M&A can be accretive, only if you know how to integrate them

Contrary to what Charlie Munger said, that two thirds of M&A don’t work, this book shows that M&A can add significant future value to your business if you know how to choose the right business, pay the right price, and integrate them. Most companies end up paying a lot more than what they should, and end up, shareholders lose value. Also, most senior executives do not know how to best integrated two large companies while preserving the other’s culture. And with that, many great talent leave.

Bob Iger showed how he managed to integrate Pixar with Disney, and not let it encroach on its existing business lines. He went with his gut feelings after assessing the intellectual capital, talent, and technology at Pixar, and felt that the acquisition will bring a lot of value (which true enough it did).


C. A company is only as good as its people

Time and time again it is the people within the company that make or break the company. In this book, Bob talks about the difficult decision of letting people go. He does not tolerate people who do not have integrity and he is not afraid of asking them to leave despite them having been with the firm for so long. Well, people do change along the way and that is where you have to adjust to the situation. There is a reason why Disney Is Named the Company Americans Want to Work For Most, and it boils down to culture and people.

Source: Disney, Employee Benefit News


D. The famous saying ” Innovate or die”

As I wrote in my previous post of Why tech is too big a sector to ignore, this book emphasize the need for companies to innovate or fall of the leader pack. Bob emphasized several times in the book to “Innovate or die”. This could mean many things to us. The first, companies have to continually invest in technology, change the way they do things, and always strive for progress. Disney is a classified as a media and entertainment company. But if you look deeper than that, they are actually a part tech company with the acquisitions they have made. In addition, with Disney+, they are even competing in the streaming space with the likes of Netflix. The second, on a personal level, this phrase “Innovate or die” also tells you that you have to continuously improve your thinking and be willing to embrace changes. Old norms are for us to challenge and to push boundaries. For example, if you have always been a value investor, it’s time to also get exposed to growth investing as there could be more opportunities in that space.


E. Negotiation is an art

Negotiation happens in all aspects of your life. Whether it is internally with co-workers, or externally with clients. There is a time to be firm, and a time to be flexible. The more you get comfortable with negotiating, the more it is going to help you in difficult life situations.

Bob Iger illustrated this perfectly in this book. Steve Jobs had a terrible relationship with Disney even though they were in a partnership previously. But that was not due to the fault of Bob. Once Bob took over the CEO role, he immediately tried to repair the relationship with Steve Jobs and over time, told Steve that he wanted to acquire Pixar (which Steve agreed in the end).

In another acquisition where Steve was contemplating on buying 21st Century Fox, Disney was willing to pay $28 per share for it. But Rupert Murdoch, then CEO of 21st Century Fox, wanted the offer price to be $29 per share ($1 more could result in as high as an additional 5 billion), which Bob firmly declined.


F. Trust your instincts

If something feels wrong, it is probably not for you. It could be a job, a boss, a team, or even a particular investment. Everybody probably has their own model in their head and with particular data points and occurrences, their minds can spew out an outcome on what is best for yourself. Only you will know it yourself so filter out all external “noises”.


What are some other useful insights that you know about Disney? Feel free to share with us in the comments box below!

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Best wishes,

Finance and Toast

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