Steve Jobs gets a new job at Disney

When it comes to Steve Jobs, most investors and even non-market watchers probably think of a single word: Apple. After all, Apple is the company that Mr. Jobs co-founded in the 1970s, when he was just a cocky twenty-something (as opposed to a cocky fifty-something). It’s also the one he has been chief executive of twice — once during its early years of success, and then more recently as the architect of Apple’s stunning metamorphosis from computer industry also-ran into personal-electronics titan. And of course, whenever Apple introduces new products to its worshipful fans, the guy at centre stage in jeans and black turtleneck is Steven Paul Jobs.

Apple’s turnaround has been an incredible success story — right up there with the rise of Google — and it has had a similar effect on the company’s share price, which has gone from a little more than $10 (U.S.) a share two years ago to a recent close of almost $80 a share. That gives the company a market value of more than $65-billion, which — as Mr. Jobs noted recently in an internal e-mail to employees — puts the company ahead of Dell, whose CEO once said Apple should close its doors and give all the money to shareholders.

Obviously, having the company you run increase in value by 700 per cent in two years has to make you feel pretty good — and Mr. Jobs has also seen his bet on Apple’s future pay off financially. Although he has taken a salary of $1 and no bonus for the past three years, he exchanged some worthless stock options for shares in the company in 2003, and those shares are now worth upwards of $800-million. Not a bad return.

Even compared with his success at Apple, however, the story of Mr. Jobs and Pixar, the digital animation company that created such movies as Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, is an eye-opener — as Paul Kedrosky points out in his own succinct way. The company Jobs bought from film-maker George Lucas for just $10-million two decades ago — the one that media conglomerate Disney has just announced it is acquiring — is worth roughly $7.5-billion, and Mr. Jobs owns 51 per cent.

He may not be as closely associated with it as he is with Apple, and Pixar may not have splashy events like Macworld where Steve shows up in jeans and a turtleneck, but he is clearly in the driver’s seat at the animation company (ironically, he is also far better compensated at Pixar, even if you exclude the value of his stock: his salary at Pixar in 2004 was $52). And he will soon be pulling a considerable amount of weight at Disney too. How will that work out, and how will it affect Apple? Interesting times are definitely ahead.


Please read the rest of this column at the Globe & Mail website.

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