Apple, Steve Jobs, Pixar, and Disney

Arik Hesseldahl

Some years ago a bizarre rumor emerged among the Mac-enthusiast Web sites that Apple Computer was about to be bought out by Disney. Various iterations of the rumor described it as a three-way deal also involving Jobs' other company Pixar. Here's one link to just such a tale, published in 1999, on which said among other things:

"Using the same powers of persuasion that led Apple to buy NeXT, Jobs was reportedly able to convince his longtime friend, Eisner, and the rest of Disney's Board to consider a buyout of Pixar.

"According to our source, Jobs was able to 'sell Apple' by presenting it as the key to developing cutting-edge technology and the computing innovation necessary to bring it to the masses--leveraging Apple's strength in QuickTime and its growing influence in the consumer space."

I didn't put much stock in it at the time, and came to the conclusion, based in part on a little heresay, that the rumor was floated as a deliberate disinformation by Apple, and was intended to determine the source of some internal Apple leaks. I never proved this, but I did hear it.

The rumor had legs. I next noticed it when it emerged in July 2000, this time on The Drudge Report. The key quote from Drudge's version of the story was this:

"Steve will not sell PIXAR without APPLE, said one company source who demanded anonymity. "Steve will not leave APPLE for DISNEY. He wants DISNEY to take both."

Both times, the reports were slapped down as idle, inaccurate speculation.

But here we are all these years later talking openly and seriously about the possibility that Steve Jobs could, through the sale of Pixar, becomes Disney's biggest shareholder. Could it be that there was a kernel of truth to this long-dismissed combination? Disney plus Pixar I get. Even the idea of Jobs stepping in for George Mitchell as Disney Chairman, I get. Disney seems like it could use a little bit of a shake-up that a Jobs Chairmanship might include.

Thankfully, Apple seems well above the fray in all this talk of potential mergers. Clearly Disney's substantial video and music library would fit very nicely into Apple's longer-term digital media strategy. Disney movies and ABC TV shows, will sell by the millions on the iTunes store. Indeed Disney and Apple are and should remain great partners. But that's as close as I would ever want them to be.

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