FlyTitle: Schumpeter

Three lessons from one of Hollywood’s most successful bosses

好莱坞最成功掌门人之一的三点经验

经济学人双语版-鲍勃·艾格的魔幻王国 Bob Iger’s magic kingdom

“I DON’T KNOW if the word disrupter was the right word to use back then, but I’ve always been willing to take some chances.” That is how Bob Iger recently explained his approach to running Disney. In his 15-year tenure Mr Iger’s bets have turned the American entertainment company from a moderately profitable business threatened by digital upstarts like Netflix and Amazon into one of the world’s most formidable content-and-technology powerhouses. Profits quadrupled from $2.5bn in 2005 to $10.4bn in 2019. Disney’s market capitalisation rocketed from $48bn to over $230bn. This track record has made Mr Iger one of the most lionised (and best-paid) corporate bosses on Earth.

“我不知道在那个时候用颠覆者这个词合不合适,但我一直都愿意冒点风险。”鲍勃·艾格(Bob Iger)最近如此解释他对迪士尼的经营之道。在他执掌这家公司的15年里,艾格多次押注,让这家盈利平平的美国娱乐公司摆脱了奈飞(Netflix)和亚马逊等数字新贵的威胁,成为世界最强大的内容和科技巨头之一。公司利润从2005年的25亿美元增至2019年的104亿美元,翻了两番。迪士尼的市值也从480亿美元飙升至2300多亿美元。这一骄人业绩让艾格成为世界上最受推崇(也是薪酬最高)的公司掌门人之一。

On February 25th Mr Iger once again displayed a fondness for disruption by announcing his departure from the corner office, effective immediately. He had toyed with the idea of retiring several times, only to change his mind. In 2016 his heir apparent was pushed out. Mr Iger has extended his own contract twice since then, and was expected to remain CEO for another couple of years. He will remain as executive chairman, focusing on the firm’s creative process, until the end of 2021 but has handed day-to-day running of the firm to Bob Chapek, a safe pair of hands who most recently ran Disney’s amusement parks.

上月25日,艾格再次展示了他对颠覆的偏爱,宣布自己卸任CEO,立即生效。以前他也曾几次想过退休,但最后都改变了主意。2016年他当时公认的接班人被迫离职。从那以后,艾格已经两度与公司续约,原本预计他在未来两年还将继续担任CEO。如今,他在2021年底之前将只担任执行董事长,集中监督公司的内容创意工作,但公司的日常经营已经交给了一个稳妥的人选——此前掌管迪士尼乐园的包正博(Bob Chapek)。

The abrupt move sent the firm’s share price tumbling by 4%. To ease investors’ nervousness, Mr Chapek would be wise to heed three lessons from his predecessor. Other executives, in Tinseltown and elsewhere, should pay attention, too.

突然换帅的消息传出,公司股价应声大跌4%。要缓解投资者的紧张情绪,包正博应该从他的前任身上汲取三点经验。而好莱坞和其他地方的高管也应多加留意。

Mr Iger’s first insight was that quality products matter—or, in Hollywood lingo, content is king. Mr Iger had no truck with the notion, espoused by some pundits, that content would become commoditised as power shifted irreversibly from creators to distributors. This belief in content led Mr Iger to collect one beloved franchise after another, in a buying spree that verged on the foolhardy. Soon after taking over in 2005 he spent $7.4bn to buy Pixar, the animation studio famous for “Toy Story” movies. Three years later he bought Marvel Entertainment, with its stable of comic-book superheroes such as the Avengers, for $4bn. In 2012 he pipped Rupert Murdoch, boss of the Fox media empire, by acquiring Lucasfilm, home of “Star Wars”, for another $4bn or so. The three acquisitions alone have so far earned Disney revenues of $36bn. Last year alone Disney’s billion-dollar blockbusters included “Avengers: Endgame” (Marvel), “The Lion King” (Walt Disney Pictures), “Frozen 2” (Pixar) and “The Rise of Skywalker” (Lucasfilm). They helped Disney grab over a third of the American film market, and global box-office takings of over $10bn. His fourth purchase, of Mr Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox in 2019 for $71bn, is by far his most ambitious (and potentially most problematic).

艾格的第一点洞见就是高品质的产品至关重要——或者用好莱坞的行话来说,内容为王。有些行业权威认为随着权力不可逆转地从创作人转移到发行人,内容将变得商品化,但艾格从不认可这种观点。在内容为王的信念驱动下,艾格近乎鲁莽地大举收购,将一个又一个大众喜爱的系列电影收入囊中。2005年上任后不久,他斥资74亿美元收购了以《玩具总动员》系列电影而闻名的动画工作室皮克斯。三年后,他以40亿美元收购了拥有《复仇者》等众多漫画超级英雄的漫威娱乐。2012年,他又以40亿美元左右的价格力压传媒帝国福克斯的老板默多克,收购了出品《星球大战》的卢卡斯影业。迄今为止,仅这三项收购就为迪士尼带来了360亿美元的收入。仅去年一年,迪士尼就有多部票房超十亿美元的卖座大片,包括《复仇者联盟:终局之战》(漫威)、《狮子王》(华特迪士尼影片)、《冰雪奇缘2》(皮克斯)和《天行者崛起》(卢卡斯影业)。凭借这些大片,迪士尼占据了美国电影市场的三分之一以上,全球票房收入超过100亿美元。他的第四笔收购是在2019年以710亿美元买下默多克旗下的二十世纪福克斯,这是他最雄心勃勃(可能也是问题最多)的一笔交易。

The second thing to learn from Mr Iger’s reign is to trust acquired talent. At most firms in most industries, when a big company buys a small, nimble one, the buyer’s managers defend their turf and foist headquarters culture onto the acquisition. Mr Iger’s Disney instead let Pixar lift its middling in-house animation team. This hands-off approach and respect for the achievements of others helped persuade control freaks like George Lucas, the founder of Lucasfilm, and Isaac Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel, to hand over their cherished possessions.

从艾格年代可得出的第二点经验是信任所收购公司里的人才。在多数行业的多数公司里,当一家大公司收购了灵活敏捷的小公司后,收购方的管理层都会捍卫自己的领地,并将总部文化强加到被收购公司上。但艾格掌管的迪士尼却放手让皮克斯去提升自己原本平庸的内部动画团队。这种不干涉和尊重他人成就的做法也有助于在收购时说服那些控制狂“割爱”,包括卢卡斯影业创始人乔治·卢卡斯(George Lucas)和深居简出的漫威董事长艾萨克·帕尔马特(Isaac Perlmutter)。

The third lesson is also the most important. A bit of paranoia can be productive. No boss succeeds without supreme self-confidence, and Mr Iger is no exception. However, he has shown time and again that he is willing to question his own judgment and to revise strategies as the business landscape evolves. When on a visit to Disneyland in Hong Kong around the time he took over as CEO Mr Iger noted that Chinese crowds preferred newer Pixar character’s to Mickey Mouse, he set reverence for Walt Disney aside and went about modernising the firm’s roster.

第三点经验最重要。一点偏执也许是有用的。没有哪个成功的老板不是极端自信,艾格也不例外。然而,他也一次又一次地表现出愿意质疑自己的判断,并随着商业格局的演变而调整战略。他刚接任CEO时去视察香港迪士尼乐园,注意到中国游客更喜欢新鲜的皮克斯角色而不是米老鼠,于是他撇开对华特·迪士尼的敬畏之情,着手对公司的角色阵容展开现代化改造。

Nowhere was this clearer than in his embrace of digital streaming. Convinced that digital disruption was “not a speed bump” but an existential threat, he bet Disney’s future on a shift from its historic business-to-business model of distribution to the fast-growing direct-to-consumer model pioneered by Netflix. This shift was driven in part by the decline in the traditional approach of bunching content into pricey bundles for pay television, a trend that has hit Disney’s ESPN sports division hard. But it was a huge gamble. He needed to persuade his board, which had to accept putting existing profitable businesses at risk, and investors, who had to swallow big outlays today in exchange for uncertain digital dividends tomorrow.

这一点在他对数字流媒体的积极态度上表露无遗。他深信数字化颠覆“不是一时的小路障”,而是关系到生死存亡的威胁,因而认定迪士尼的未来要依靠转型,从原来的B2B发行模式,转变为奈飞率先倡导而迅速发展的直接面向消费者的模式。推动这一转型的原因之一是将内容打包后高价卖给付费电视的传统业务开始下滑,这种趋势已经严重冲击了迪士尼旗下的ESPN体育业务。但这是一场豪赌。他需要说服董事会和投资者,董事会必须接受拿现有的盈利业务冒险,而投资者则必须承受拿今天的巨额支出换取尚不确定的明天的数字红利。

On November 12th the firm launched Disney+, a streaming service, in America and a handful of other markets. By the end of the day it had 10m subscribers. Since then it has chalked up another 20m. Add a further 30m people who pay to watch Hulu, an older streaming service Mr Iger took control of in 2019, and more people fork over money to Disney every month than pay for cable TV from Comcast or AT&T.

去年11月12日,公司在美国和其他少数几个市场推出了流媒体服务Disney+。上线第一天就吸引了1000万订户。自那以后又新增了2000万订户。再加上艾格在2019年获得控股权的早期流媒体服务Hulu的3000万付费用户,现在每个月为迪士尼掏钱的人数已经超过了康卡斯特(Comcast)或AT&T的有线电视付费用户。

The Iger sanction

艾格的约束

Mr Iger leaves his successor a company in good shape, but also in the midst of two transformations: digital and, with 20th Century Fox to fold in, organisational. Both will soon test whether Mr Chapek has learned Mr Iger’s lessons. He certainly appears to share his mentor’s belief in the importance of brands and content, dating back to childhood visits to Walt Disney World. A big test of his respect for talented types with strong opinions will be convincing Kevin Mayer, the go-getting head of Disney’s direct-to-consumer business whom many expected to get the top job, to stay put. The even greater challenge of integrating a behemoth like 20th Century Fox, a bigger acquisition than Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm combined, will require a degree of adaptability that would have strained the old boss himself. As it is, Mr Iger has bowed out before his most epic plot has unspooled. ■

艾格留给继任者的公司状态极佳,但也正处于两大转型之中:数字转型,以及涉及整合二十世纪福克斯的组织转型。两者都将很快考验包正博是否汲取了艾格的经验。他显然与导师一样深信品牌和内容的重要性,这可以追溯到童年时游览迪士尼世界的经历。他是否尊重极有主见的人才,这一点将在他能否说服凯文·梅耶尔(Kevin Mayer)留任的问题上经受重大考验。满怀抱负的梅耶尔掌管迪士尼直接面向消费者的业务,此前许多人看好他将接棒上位。整合二十世纪福克斯这样的庞然大物更是巨大的挑战,毕竟它比皮克斯、漫威和卢卡斯影业加起来还大,这需要高度的应变能力,即使是前老板亲自上阵也可能要殚精竭虑。事实上,艾格最宏大的剧情尚未上演,他却已躬身谢幕。