Book Review: “The Ride of a Lifetime”

Robert Iger is executive chairman, chairman of the board, and former CEO (2005–2020) of The Walt Disney Company. He has also served as president of ABC Television (1994–1995) and as president/COO of Capital Cities/ABC (1995) until it was acquired by Disney (1996). Iger was then named president/COO of Disney in 2000 and succeeded Michael Eisner as CEO in 2005. During his 15 years as CEO, Iger orchestrated a string of major deals that increased Disney’s trove of intellectual property and extended its international reach. These included acquiring Pixar in 2006, Marvel Entertainment in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012, and the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Iger presided over the introduction of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in 2005 and Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016. He also oversaw the reinvigoration of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

In 2019, Iger authored a memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. During a recent cross-country trip, I listened to the audio version, which serves as the basis for my comments.

The book opens with a Prologue which begins by recounting a horrific tragedy — the fatal attack by an alligator on a two-year-old boy at Walt Disney World. In his own words, Iger recounts his feelings, how he personally reached out to the family, and the actions he took to preclude a recurrence. He then segues into his management philosophy, with ten principles he feels are necessary for true leadership. The bulk of the audio book is read by a professional actor, although Iger ultimately returns to narrate a capstone appendix on “Lessons to Lead By.”

Overall, I thought the book was an excellent recounting of Iger’s professional life. It includes failures and disappointments as well as successes, and provides a real insight to the personalities involved. It isn’t quite as comprehensive as I would’ve liked — he never mentions how Disney fumbled the chance to have Harry Potter in its theme parks, or the agreement to bring “Pandora — the World of Avatar” to Walt Disney World — but this book can serve as a valuable case study in business management and will especially appeal to any Disney fan.

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