Who Owns Disney? Six Myths About Steve Jobs At Pixar

Disney’s main shareholders include Robert A. Iger,  former chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of The Walt Disney Company since 2005. Other significant individual shareholders, as of 2022, comprise Susan E. Arnold, Christine M. McCarthy, and Alan N. Braverman. Significant institutional investors comprise Blackrock Inc. with 6.4% and The Vanguard Group with 8%, respectively.

Current ownership structure

As of 2022, based on the official, Disney’s major shareholders comprise: 

disney-top-institutional-investors

Disney’s top institutional investors comprise The Vanguard Group, with 8% shares, and Blackrock, with 6.4% ownership. These mutual funds own a good chunk of most public companies with large market caps. 

Thus, they also have a good chunk of ownership in Disney. 

disney-top-individual-shareholders

What about the past? Let’s revisit the history of Disney stock ownership over the years.

Why did Steve Jobs use to own Disney stocks?

As The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923, it also had a long history of stock ownership.

It is interesting to revisit the story of how Steve Jobs owned almost 8% of the company for a few years.

Until 2016, Laurene Powell Jobs Trust owned 7.8% of Disney:

steve-jobs-stocks-walt-disney-2016

This number is shown in the Disney Proxy Statement for 2016. However, as of 2018, those stocks were sold

Everyone knows Steve Jobs’ story. For those who don’t recall it. In 1985 Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple.

That was mainly due to the lack of success of his last product and the fact the company needed to take action to avoid consequences on the bottom line.

When Jobs was ousted, he didn’t take it “sportingly,” and he sold all of his stocks Apple back then.

I covered in “Who Owns Apple” how Jobs used those stocks to purchase Pixar.

And with his genius, Steve Jobs made Pixar among the most innovative companies in the world until Disney acquired it.

That is the conventional story that praises the genius Jobs.

I’d like to report the story told by Alvy Ray Smith on his blog. This is his perspective on those years as founder of Lucasfilm, the company that would presumably sell Pixar to Steve Jobs.

In reality, Alvy Ray Smith seems to tell us another story, which doesn’t picture Steve Jobs as the visionary we all know.

Pixar History revisited by Alvy Ray Smith

It is important to remark this is another side of the story that can hardly be confirmed or refuted.

However, I invite you to read it on Alvy Ray Smith’s blog.

He has there documents that seem to be genuine. Here I’m noting a few critical points.

As noted by Alvy Ray Smith on his blog, the computer scientist and businessman that co-founded Pixar:

A new spinout corporation from Lucasfilm, called Pixar, was capitalized with $10 million from Steve Jobs. Pixar paid $5 million of this to Lucasfilm for exclusive rights to the technology developed by the team while at Lucasfilm (exclusive except that Lucasfilm could continue to use it too). That was not a “buy” for Pixar. It was a “buy” of technology rights, and it was a “buy” by Pixar, not Steve. The other $5 million was used to actually run the new company. Steve Jobs was the investor, pure and simple.

In short, he is arguing that Steve Jobs is an “investor,” not the “buyer” thus the one who runs the company. In fact, in the same article, Alvy Ray Smith continues “Ed Catmull, and Alvy Ray Smith were the management of Pixar. Steve owned 70% of the new company, the management and employees the other 30%. Ed, Alvy, and Steve were the board of the corporation. Again, this was not a “buy” by any stretch of the definition. The implication of “buy” is to “own and run.” The implication of “invest” is to own an interest in and let managers (ultimately responsible to the board) run. Pixar was of the second type. Use of the term “buy” is a marketing ploy to make it seem that Steve was the single inspired genius who had all the ideas of Pixar and made it work. That’s not how it worked. Not even close.
He also makes another strong point when it comes to Jobs saving Pixar because he had a grand vision for its future:
No, it didn’t. Jobs did not come along and pour money into a dying company and save it, as is sometimes depicted. Pixar was failing despite his money which was the only money the company had. That is, the company built from scratch with Jobs’s investment was the company that was in trouble, DESPITE Job’s financial involvement. It was failing as a hardware company. What saved Pixar was Disney’s asking it to make a movie. That wasn’t Jobs’s idea at all. In fact, the idea all along (Ed and Alvy’s idea) was to keep the company alive with hardware manufacturing as long as necessary to reach the next stage in Moore’s Law, when computing a movie would become feasible, then make movies. Jobs invested in that initial hardware company. He ran another hardware company, Next, at this time. Hardware was what he knew, not animation.

The company ran out of money several times in the initial hardware days. Jobs poured more money in to cover the losses each time. It’s sometimes construed that he did this because he saw the long-term potential of the movie business and held on to “his vision” with further investments. This wasn’t the case at all, however. Jobs kept pouring money into the company so that he wouldn’t have to sustain the embarrassment that his first company – after being booted from Apple – was a failure. The result is the same: His money kept the company afloat, but the idea that it was his grand vision is not right. In fact, he would have sold the company to ANYBODY for $50 million (to cover his total investment) during that pre-movie period. The company (Ed and Alvy, in particular) wrote several business plans during those years for just that purpose. They all failed to attract a buyer. Jobs would have bolted if he could have without embarrassment.

What Jobs WAS good at was seeing the grand opportunity when it appeared, and moving fast to take advantage of it. That opportunity wasn’t Disney’s approach in 1991 to the company to make the movie. It was when the completed movie, over three years later (late 1994), was taken to New York City and the critics went wild, saying it was going to be a smash. THEN Jobs quickly stepped forward, pushed Ed Catmull aside as apparent head of the company, and took brilliant advantage of the opportunity to take the company public, cover his investment finally, and make it appear that it had been his idea all along to do it this way. He was a marketing genius, including self-marketing.

It was Disney’s money that saved Pixar. They paid for the production of Toy Story, which went on to great success for the company. Animated movies were Pixar’s vision, from its earliest days at NYIT on Long Island, not Jobs’s vision.

You can read all six months below:

Who owns Disney now?

disney-top-individual-shareholders

Disney has been owned by people like Robert A. Iger,  former chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of The Walt Disney Company, since 2005.

Why Twitter had Jack Dorsey as a board member?

In December 2013, Jack Dorsey announced his participation in the Disney with a quote:

As reported by The Verge back then:

Jack Dorsey is a talented entrepreneur who has helped create groundbreaking new businesses in the social media and commerce spaces,”

Said Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive:  

“The perspective he brings to Disney and its Board is extremely valuable, given our strategic priorities, which include utilizing the latest technologies and platforms to reach more people and to enhance the relationship we have with our customers.

However, as Twitter has become over the years a media company, Jack Dorse won’t probably be re-elected as a board member as conflicts of interest loom ahead.

Why Twitter had Sheryl Sandberg as a Disney board member?

Sheryl Sandberg was appointed as a Disney board member back in 2010.

Just like Jack Dorsey, she might not be for re-election as Facebook, now considered a media company, make her position in a conflict of interest with the company.

As announced back in 2010 on The Walt Disney Company Blog:

Sheryl is an outstanding executive who can add incredible value to what is already a diverse and highly experienced group of directors,”

Said John E. Pepper Jr., Disney’s chairman:

She brings great expertise in the online world, considerable international experience, and a deep understanding of consumer behavior.

When Disney served as inspiration for designing the Airbnb customer experience

storyboarding-business
A storyboard is a linear sequence of illustrations used in animation to develop a broader story. A storyboard process is now used also in business to understand and map customers’ experiences and enable the growth of the company using that process.

As explained in business storyboarding,

More about the Disney business model

Disney Business Model

disney-business-model
Disney’s business model revolves around creating sustainable, scalable brands based on Disney characters and stories.

Disney SWOT Analysis

disney-swot-analysis
It would be hard to argue for a more recognizable entertainment brand than Disney. Disney is, of course, synonymous with Walt Disney, but it was Walt and his brother Roy who started the company in 1923 in Burbank, California. Disney content is now broadcast on over 100 channels in 34 different languages across the globe.

Other Ownership Case Studies

Who Owns Hulu?

who-owns-hulu
In a $71 billion-dollar deal, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, and with that, it also doubled its stake in Hulu, bringing it from 30% to 67%, thus giving The Walt Disney Company full control over Hulu. This move enabled Disney to strengthen its position in the streaming industry by taking over Netflix. Therefore, Hulu is part of the Walt Disney Company media empire.

Who Owns Google

The most prominent institutional shareholders are mutual funds BlackRock and The Vanguard Group, with 2.7% and 3.1%, respectively. Larry Page and Sergey Brin together have 51% of the voting power. Other individual shareholders comprise John Doerr (1.5%), venture capitalist and early investor in Google, and CEO, Sundar Pichai. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has 4.2% voting power. 

Who Owns Facebook

who-owns-facebook
Mark Zuckerberg is the largest shareholder of the company. Zuckerberg retains ownership and control of the company. Like Google, Facebook has issued two common stocks, Class A and Class B. The holders of Class B common stocks are entitled to ten votes per share, and holders of our Class A common stocks are entitled to one vote per share. Mark Zuckerberg has a voting power of 56.9%; he’s the main decision-maker.

Who Owns Apple

who-owns-apple
As of 2021, major Apple shareholders comprised Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway with 5.56% of the company’s stock. Followed by other individual shareholders like Tim Cook, CEO of Apple with over 3.3 million shares, Artur Levinson, chairman of Apple, with over 4.5 million shares, and others. 

Who Owns Amazon

who-owns-amazon
With 64,588,418 shares, Jeff Bezos is the major individual investor. Owning 12.7% of the company. Other top individual investors comprise Amazon’s CEO Andy Jessy, with 94,729 shares. Top institutional investors comprise mutual funds like The Vanguard Group (6.6% ownership) and BlackRock (5.7% ownership). 

Who Owns Microsoft

who-owns-microsoft
Major shareholders comprise co-founder Bill Gates, who stepped down from the company’s board in 2020, which is why these shares are no longer publicly reported. In 2019, Gates still owned a stake of 103 million stocks, which accounted for 1.34% of the company’s ownership (worth over $23 billion in September 2022). Other individual shareholders comprise Satya Nadella, the company’s CEO, Brad Smith (former president), Jean-Philippe Courtois (EVP), and Amy Hood (former CFO).

Who Owns Tesla

who-owns-tesla
By 2022, most of Tesla’s shares are still owned by Elon Musk, among the company’s co-founders and the CEO. Elon Musk is the top individual investor, with a 23.5% stake in the company, equivalent to over 244 million shares. Musk is followed by Lawrence Ellison (founder of Oracle), with a 1.5% company stake. Ellison also sits on Tesla’s board. And Antonio Gracias, among the company’s first investors, has over 1.6 million shares. Other institutional investors and mutual funds like The Vanguard Group (6%), Blackrock (5.1%), and Capital Ventures International also have a good chunk of the company’s stocks.

Who Owns PayPal

who-owns-paypal
PayPal was first founded in 1998; it was called Confinity (among its founders was Peter Thiel); later, it merged with X.com, its major competitor, founded by Elon Musk (which would become known for other companies like Tesla and SpaceX). From this merger, PayPal was born. In 2002, PayPal was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion. eBay spun off PayPal in 2015, which would be listed as an independent entity. Today PayPal owns brands like Braintree, Venmo, Xoom, and iZettle.

Who Owns Netflix

who-owns-netflix
Netflix’s largest individual shareholder is Reed Hastings, co-founder, and CEO of the company, with a 1.7% stake, valued at over $1.8 billion in 2022. Netflix runs a subscription-based business model that generated $29.6 billion in revenues, and it had over 221 million global members in 2021. Netflix’s business model runs only premium content on its platform, driven by its Netflix Originals shows. Netflix is also building an ad-supported version.

Who Owns TikTok

who-owns-tiktok
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese internet technology company owning several content platforms worldwide (Douyin, Toutiao, Xigua Video, Helo, Lark, Babe). Bytedance passed the $300 billion private market valuation by 2022, making around $58 billion in revenue in 2022, over $4 billion from TikTok.

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