Bob Iger needs all the friends he can get, given what’s on his plate as CEO of the increasingly unstable House of Mouse.
Consider: Activist investors are swirling, his stock price has cratered, and consumers are shunning Disney movies.
He’s still mired in a battle with the Florida governor who took away Disney’s self-governance perk known as Reedy Creek because of its overt progressivism.
All that, yet Iger decided he needed to pick an absurd fight with Elon Musk.
Iger recently went public with his decision to pull ads from Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter) social media platform, joining others in the progressive CEO class attacking someone the left hates as much as Donald Trump.
The overarching goal of the progressive movement, if you haven’t noticed, is destroying the platform Musk is trying to remake from the lefty safe space it had been for far too long to a free-speech mecca.
No more silencing of conservative voices, no more taking orders from the lefties in the Biden administration.
With that, Musk, despite being the world’s richest man, had a big “X” on his back.
Recently, Musk himself made it larger when he clumsily endorsed a crude tweet that suggested something vile and antisemitic: that Jews were behind a theory to replace white people.
The trolls insist Jewish people are getting their just rewards with the outpouring of antisemitic hatred on the streets following the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre of Israelis near Gaza.
Then came a report from the Soros-backed lefties at Media Matters that said X places noxious content from neo-Nazi users next to ads of major companies like Disney, leading to an ad boycott and money drain that threatens X’s existence.
Iger, at last week’s New York Times DealBook conference, seemed to relish X’s demise.
He took the lead in publicly upbraiding Musk, and squeezing the company’s ad-revenue base even further.
“By him taking the position that he took in quite a public manner,” Iger said, “we just felt that the association with that position and Elon Musk and X was not necessarily a positive one for us. And we decided we would pull our advertising.”
Musk’s X posting was dumb (he said as much at the same conference) but a fairer reading doesn’t put him anywhere close to the antisemitism being displayed by elements of the Democratic Party who are all but celebrating the Oct. 7 massacre — without a peep from the Disney boss.
As for Media Matters’ “investigation,” it’s about as solid as Disney’s shaky stock price; Musk’s programmers say the left-wing provocateurs manufactured the situation they accused X of fomenting. Musk and his lawyers are now suing for defamation.
The bigger issue for Disney’s shareholders is whether Iger understands what battles he needs to pick.
Iger, of course, was the longtime CEO of Disney, a legend in media and entertainment before stepping down as chief executive in 2020 (he remained as chairman until 2021) and giving the company over to his chosen successor, Bob Chapek.
Iger was lauded for his deal-making, stock-price performance — and for his progressive social activism virtue-signaled from his C-suite that was cheered by the liberal cultural establishment.
Lefties in charge
As my book on corporate wokeism — the forthcoming “Go Woke, Go Broke” — demonstrates, Chapek was ultimately forced out by the company’s left-wing corporate infrastructure in part because he initially sought to change the culture Iger had left him.
No surprise that when Chapek got the ax in late 2022, the board of Disney brought Iger back and he picked up where he left off. Except it wasn’t that easy.
His deal-making wasn’t that great; it saddled Disney with lots of debt at a time when consumers weren’t rushing to watch its woke movies or pay all that much money for a trip to woke Disney World.
Shares of Disney are down nearly 20% over the past five years, and aren’t recovering.
In a recent filing to investors, the company disclosed that its progressive stances are taking a chunk out of its bottom line because “consumer perception of our position on matters of public interest, including our efforts to achieve our environmental and social goals, often differ widely and present risks to our reputation and brands.”
Musk’s response to Iger’s virtue-signaling also made a lot of news because it was both priceless and typical Musk.
“If somebody’s going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money,” he responded also during the Dealbook conference, “go f–k yourself. Go. F–k. Yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is . . . Hey, Bob, if you’re here in the audience. That’s how I feel.”
I am told Musk’s people at X are feverishly looking to change its business model, moving the platform away from paid ads by big, woke corporations like Disney.
It won’t be easy and it’s a work in progress to monetize X’s reach with small businesses, and even with a payment service along the lines of PayPal (Musk was one of its founders).
Iger, meanwhile, should be worrying about Disney’s woke and increasingly unprofitable business model.
He’s got bigger issues to deal with than picking fights with Elon Musk.