Walt Disney Co. President Robert Iger, who in September will take over as chief executive, said he wants to talk with Steven Job's Pixar...
Walt Disney Co. President Robert Iger, who in September will take over as chief executive, said he wants to talk with Steven Job’s Pixar animation studio about renewing their film-distribution partnership.
“I’d love to open a dialogue with Pixar about a continued relationship,” Iger said yesterday at Disney’s Burbank, Calif. headquarters. “But as I’ve cautioned a number of people, any relationship we have has to be the right one for the shareholders of the company.”
Disney, the nation’s second-biggest media company, has co-financed and distributed all of Pixar’s feature-length films, including “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles.” The two companies split costs and profits equally after Disney receives a distribution fee.
The contract between the two ends with Pixar’s June 2006 release of “Cars.” Pixar is searching for a new distributor after cutting off talks with Disney in 2004.
Iger will replace Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who was seen as the main stumbling block to renewing the lucrative partnership with Pixar because of his turbulent relationship with Pixar CEO Steve Jobs.
“I just think this puts a lot of pressure on the Walt Disney Co.,” Fulcrum Global Partners analyst Rich Greenfield said. “Bob Iger, once he takes over, will be faced with this negotiation as one of his first acts as CEO. … Disney needs [Pixar] very badly.”
Greenfield said Jobs would likely press his advantage to get better terms than he could have squeezed from Eisner. Pixar films have taken in about $3 billion at the box office worldwide, and Disney has had the bigger share of profit. “The pressure is on Disney, not Pixar,” Greenfield said.
Last month, Jobs told analysts Pixar “likely … will not forge a new relationship with Disney beyond our current deal.” He did not elaborate about how far talks with Disney had progressed or where else Pixar might look for a partner.
Pixar has repeatedly pushed back its target date for finding a new distributor and said “musical chairs” in Hollywood was part of the reason, giving some hope a new Disney deal was possible.
Anthony Sabino, a business and law professor at St. John’s University in New York, warned that Pixar would play an important part in helping Iger win the Disney board’s confidence.
“One of his top priorities, and maybe his top priority, has got to be to reach out to Pixar and negotiate with them again,” Sabino said.
Lehman Bros. analyst Anthony DiClemente called the development at Disney “not … a huge surprise to Pixar investors” and in a research note said a deal was “less likely” between the two companies.
Pixar spokesman Tom Sarris yesterday said the company had no further comment on the distributor search or developments at Disney. He would not say whether Jobs and Iger had ever met.
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