Who Owns Disney? Six Myths About Steve Jobs At Pixar

Disney’s main shareholders include Robert A. Iger, chief executive officer (CEO) of The Walt Disney Company between 2005-2020, and he returned as CEO by 2022. Other significant individual shareholders, as of 2022, comprise Susan E. Arnold, Christine M. McCarthy, and Alan N. Braverman. Main institutional investors include 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’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. 


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:


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.

And he continued:

“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.

And he further highlighted:

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.

Closing his statement with:

“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 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 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, puts 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

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,

Back in 2011, Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, picked up a biography of Walt Disney over the Christmas vacation.

In there, he found a technique that Walt Disney used.

As the story goes, during a passage of Walt Disney’s biography, Chesky noticed how, during the production of the movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in the 1930s, Disney used storyboards, a technique invented by a Disney’s animator, a few years earlier.

Chesky felt that when Disney used this technique, he was in a similar situation that Airbnb was facing at the time. 

Thus, Chesky, with the other co-founders, had an animator from Pixar design the storyboard for the three key processes:

  • The host process.
  • The guest process.
  • And the hiring process.

Those storyboards brought in the Airbnb headquarters aimed to align everyone in the organization around the critical elements of the customers’ experiences. 

In 2022, Airbnb enabled $63.2 Billion in Gross Booking Value, generating $8.4 Billion in service fee revenues. In 2022, there were $393.7 Million Nights and Experiences Booked, ad an average service fee of 13.3%, at an Average Value per Booking of $161.

Read: Disney Business Model

Related Visual Stories

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.

Disney Revenue

The Walt Disney Company reported over $82 billion in revenues in 2022, compared to over $67 billion and over $65 billion in 2020.

Disney Profits


Disney Employees


Disney Subscribers


Disney vs. Netflix

By September 2022, Disney counted 235,7 million subscribers, whereas Netflix counted 223 million subscribers.

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