Steve Jobs Seen as Winner in a Disney-Pixar Deal

The Walt Disney Company could announce as early as Tuesday that it will acquire Pixar Animation. If the deal goes through, Pixar chief Steve Jobs — the founder of Apple Computer — could become the largest shareholder of the Disney Company.

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An announcement could come as early as today that the Walt Disney Company is buying Pixar Animation Studios, Inc. Published reports say Disney's board has authorized the CEO, Robert Iger, to complete a deal. But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, there are some issues to work out first.

LAURA SYDELL reporting:

The rumors have been flying ever since the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Disney proposed buying Pixar in a stock transaction worth 6.7 billion dollars. The article also raised the possibility that Pixar chief and Apple Computer founder, Steve Jobs, might land a position on the board of Disney. But David Miller, analyst at Sanders, Morris, Harris says there could be some stumbling blocks to the deal. One of the key topics to discuss, he says, is likely to be the dislike of Disney among its former employees who now work for Pixar.

Mr. DAVID MILLER (Analyst, Sanders, Morris, Harris Group): Many animators, not everyone, but many, would never want to work for Walt Disney Company again. So, that is a cultural situation that would have to be absolved if in fact Disney did this deal.

SYDELL: However, Pixar could get a permanent distributor of its highly successful animated films. Its previous movies were all distributed by Disney, but tensions between the two companies were at a high point under former Disney chief Michael Eisner. The company's current CEO, Robert Iger, has sought to repair relations with Pixar.

Analyst Miller believes that having more input from Steve Jobs would be a plus for Disney in the changing multimedia environment. With the success of the iPod and iTunes, Jobs is seen as a leader in merging old technology content with new forms of distribution.

Mr. MILLER: There's a certain sexiness and appeal that would be attached to those assets now that a guy like Steve Jobs, and I'm just talking hypothetically, would be involved with the Disney Company.

SYDELL: Ultimately, there might also be some struggles for Jobs in such a situation, says Miller. As CEO of Apple, he must still deal with other media companies, and get them to sign up for ventures like the iTunes Store. Such issues could be slowing, or might even thwart the deal between Disney and Pixar.

Laura Sydell, NPR News.

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