The Ride of a Lifetime

The Ride of a Lifetime

Who is Robert Iger? Why should we take time to read about him? Most readers are familiar with Disney movies, Disney amusement parks and Disney characters. But, were you aware that Disney owns ABC television as well as ESPN sports broadcasting? Or, that the company now produces the Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar movies, as well as the newly formed Disney+ streaming television channel?

Iger built Disney into a premier entertainment business. This book describes how Iger affected the growth of this company and led it to become one of the great success stories of our time. The maneuvering and negotiations involved in the acquisitions read like a thriller.

Iger’s rise to CEO began as a ‘gofer’ for ABC television shows, and he paid his dues through many years of hard work in TV production, until one of his bosses saw his promise and gave him his first executive responsibilities. Through a couple of mergers, and a long wait as second in command, Iger finally reached his goal.

This book can be read as a Horatio Alger success story. Perhaps more important, in an era when large corporations are being criticized left and right, the Disney story shows that successful growth requires great management and is far from a sure thing. Competitors had to be overcome, major financial bets were made about future consumer demand, and a lot of good fortune in the economy combined to make the Disney story appear, in hindsight, as a certainty.

Following the course of the company over a 25-year period, however, shows that both luck and skill were involved. Iger is the first to admit that he did not accomplish all of this personally, and that the personalities he dealt with in the course of his career were often as much hindrance as help.

A major theme of the book, but one that may not appeal to all readers, involves Iger’s management lessons: “Take responsibility when you screw up,” “value ability more than experience,” “innovate or die,” and “managing creativity is an art, not a science” are all truisms found in every primer on management. The good news is how Iger actually put these ideas into practice makes a very readable story.

Alfred M. King is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania.

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