A series of No B.S. Articles by: Dan S. Kennedy
Last year, Bob Iger’s compensation as CEO of Disney was raised 20% by the Board, and he was paid $40.2-million. I’m happy for him. As a Disney fan and customer I appreciate his stewardship of legacy and quality. As a shareholder, I only regret not wagering a lot more on this horse when the price was cheap. Disney, if you haven’t been paying attention to the news, is thriving, and nearing another explosion of revenue and value growth as a China park’s opening grows closer.
$40.2-million is a lot of cheese, especially for someone who’s judgment is so repetitively questioned. In 2006, shortly after taking the kingship from Eisner, Iger personally negotiated a deal with Steve Jobs to buy Pixar for $7.4-billion, and was openly criticized by Wall Street analysts, business media, and peers for grossly over-paying. But Iger said that Pixar’s value was in its future films, not its existing assets, and he believed the Pixar capabilities and people were what Disney needed to reinvigorate its animation. You might look up all the revenues earned from the Toy Story franchise alone, if you want to pass judgment on the $7.4-billion. Recently Iger bought Marvel, and the same criticism about paying more than its worth was loudly raised. After the new Iron Man and Avengers films’ success and what is obviously to follow, critics quieted. Very recently, he bought Lucasfilms from George Lucas, thus acquiring everything Star Wars, and again, a chorus of critics emerged decrying the price tag. It seems to me that Iger has over-paid in each of these instances based on bean-counters’ formulaic analysis of present worth but bought at bargain prices factoring in the immediate increases in revenue and value made possible by Disney ownership and synergy, let alone the future value to be created with the assets. In short, he has a renegade formula.
Ordinary entrepreneurs and investors run screaming away at the idea of deliberately paying a price significantly higher than the accountants and analysts say something is worth. The most interesting Renegade Millionaires live by it. Trump told me he has, quote, over-paid, unquote for every one of his best deals and properties, but just hanging his name on something makes it worth 20% to 30% more, and on top of that, he buys based on his vision for its future value. Iger said he borrows inspiration from Walt Disney in making these decisions and others like them. He says: “Walt was an unbelievable futurist.”
Entrepreneurs and marketers face this “how much to pay?” question a lot – not just if acquiring a company, but when it comes to the differential costs of acquiring different kinds of customers from different sources, the costs of joint ventures or strategic alliances, the costs of key people. Most make poor-minded, short-sighted decisions. I have quite a bit to say about all this in my book, No B.S. Guide to Ruthless Management of People and Profits.
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Being able to pay a higher price for a worthwhile asset than anyone else can or will pay or even thinks sane but, by your calculations, getting a deeply discounted bargain is the legerdemain of a true master entrepreneur. This is THE secret behind many built-from-scratch, amazing enterprises, particularly in the direct marketing world. It has built my client Guthy-Renker to a near-$2-billion business. It made HealthSource’s meteoric rise from start to over 350 franchises in just 3 years possible. It is a force that should be ardently coveted and never cavalierly dismissed. Any idiot can easily find ways it can’t be done – are you any idiot?
Despite Iger’s success, he was quick to remind an interviewer that he’s the guy who put the show “Cop Rock” on ABC. “The longer you’re around and the more you do, the more failures you have on your resume.” Disney’s “John Carter From Mars” was on Iger’s watch. Trump invested in an embarrassing alternative football league that lived briefly. He has, once, maybe twice danced at the edge of bankruptcy. His planned Vegas casino is a non-casino condo tragedy. I’ve had a number of duds myself and none of them matter. The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that even a few big wins can cover a lot of other mistakes – and erase them from public consciousness. There is also a big fail-forward-factor in most Renegade Millionaire success stories: the piles of shit we fall (or climb) into often have hidden passageways that lead to gold mines. We do not fear these falls.
All Renegade Millionaires are futurists. We create and try to predict future value. This is the only way you can ever get beyond simple earning of daily bread. It is important that the trains run on time today, but that’s not enough. Where is the visionary leader? You must bring this to your business.