UPDATED WITH HOLLYWOOD TRIBUTES: Apple just issued this statement about the death of its co-founder after his long battle with cancer: “We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today. Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.” He was 56. What a compelling legacy he leaves behind, building the world’s most valuable technology company by creating the devices that changed how people use electronics and revolutionized the computer, music, and mobile phone industries.Immediately, Walt Disney President and CEO Bob Iger circulated this response: “Steve Jobs was a great friend as well as a trusted advisor. His legacy will extend far beyond the products he created or the businesses he built. It will be the millions of people he inspired, the lives he changed, and the culture he defined. Steve was such an “original,” with a thoroughly creative, imaginative mind that defined an era. Despite all he accomplished, it feels like he was just getting started. With his passing the world has lost a rare original, Disney has lost a member of our family, and I have lost a great friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Laurene and his children during this difficult time.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that Iger’s 2005 success resolving the long-running feud between Disney and Jobs set in motion by autocratic Michael Eisner signaled to Wall Street that the Mouse House was in good hands. Jobs and Eisner had been warring over the existing Pixar distribution deal and its unlikely renewal — down to details like whether Pixar would deliver Toy Story sequels. (Eisner said yes. Jobs said no.) Even Roy Disney, nephew of the studio’s founder, sided with Pixar against Eisner, whose relationship with Jobs was so damaged by then that Iger became point man in the Pixar negotiations. On his very first day as CEO, October 1, 2005, Iger told the board that his top priority was to fix Disney’s slumping animation business and his way to do that was to buy Jobs’ Pixar. The initial reaction, according to news reports, was “stunned silence.” The board gave Iger the go-ahead for the garguantuan $7 billion purchase. It made Jobs into Disney’s largest individual shareholder with a 7% stake virtually overnight. It also put Pixar execs Ed Catmull and John Lasseter in charge of the Disney animation legacy.
Later, Jobs told Fortune that Iger won him over when Iger said that, as soon as he found out he was going to be CEO, he spent a day at Disneyland going on every ride and watching every show only to observe that all the new attractions were based on Pixar characters. Jobs right up to his death gave Iger and the board input on everything. “I consider Bob Iger a friend,” Jobs told the magazine. “I don’t have a lot of friends. I just really like him, and he’s a really solid guy.” Later, when Jobs conceived of iPods and iTunes and iPhones and iPads, Iger’s Disney was the earliest adopter.
“Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family,” said John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer & Ed Catmull, President, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. “He saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply ‘make it great.’ He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA. Our hearts go out to his wife Laurene and their children during this incredibly difficult time.”
News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch worked closely with Jobs on developing exclusive content for the iPad: “Today, we lost one of the most influential thinkers, creators and entrepreneurs of all time. Steve Jobs was simply the greatest CEO of his generation. While I am deeply saddened by his passing, I’m reminded of the stunning impact he had in revolutionizing the way people consume media and entertainment. My heart goes out to his family and to everyone who had the opportunity to work beside him in bringing his many visions to life.”
After months upon months of appearing in public weak and skeletal because of his illness, Jobs resigned his position atop Apple on August 24th saying he could no longer meet his duties and expectations as Apple CEO. Tuesday was the first major product unveiling that won’t be introduced by Steve Jobs. Instead, his successor Tim Cook presented the iPhone 4S and other upgrades. Jobs had a profound effect on Hollywood business by reinvigorating animation at Disney through Pixar and helping engineer that studio’s purchase of the CGI toon hitmaker. In addition, his hardware and iTunes software have helped Big Media find new platforms for their content when DVD sales hit the skids. Analysts agreed that the next arena for Apple to master is television and that newly named CEO Tim Cook, formerly the company’s COO, may be even better suited to guide the company there. But without Jobs’ genius facility for imagineering and branding, Apple’s future remains unclear although the company’s stock had been on the rise since Jobs’ exit. Until the iPhone 5 didn’t appear.
Jobs’ resignation letter to the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community was poignant: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple”s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come. I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role. I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”
Said Art Levinson, Chairman of Genentech, on behalf of Apple’s Board, when Jobs resigned: “Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company. Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple’s immensely creative employees and world class executive team. In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.” But it was not to be.