In the days leading up to his shocking return as CEO of Walt Disney Co., Robert Iger was negotiating a big new role at Gerry Cardinale’s investment firm RedBird Capital Partners, multiple sources told Variety. The gig would have given Iger significant financial resources to help shape the media landscape, the individuals familiar with the deal added.
RedBird was hashing out an overarching sports and media portfolio for Iger to oversee. The firm has recently brought cash infusements and scale playbooks to such Hollywood companies as LeBron James’ Springhill Entertainment, David Ellison’s Skydance, the Fenway Sports Group, and, as of Sunday, a new equitable movie studio launched by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Last week, when Skydance Sports announced a new content production partnership with the National Football League, rumors abounded that Iger would somehow be involved via this new RedBird gig.
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A spokesperson for Iger could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesperson for RedBird declined to comment.
News of Iger’s return to Disney began trickling out on Thursday in the highest corporate circles, insiders said. RedBird wasn’t the first gig Iger came close to taking in the investment space. He was announced as a partner and senior advisor to VC operation Thrive Capital in September 2022, though nothing substantive has come from that pairing.
“At the end of the day, he’d rather be a CEO than an entrepreneur,” one source close to the investment world said of Iger. It’s unclear how the esteemed executive’s 11th-hour return to his post at Disney was digested by the folks at RedBird, but having the CEO of Disney as a friend will certainly not hurt their causes as they look to expand into more creative spaces.
The surprise Sunday night announcement from the Disney board that Iger would return for a two-year term as chief executive officer made Hollywood incredulous — then full of abject glee. The continued battering of media stocks, the uncertain future of streaming content spending, and the dread of preemptive mass layoffs ahead of a presumed recession have left many in town feeling bleak about the future.
“Bob came home just in time for Christmas,” another industry insider remarked.
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