Bob Iger, Walt Disney’s chief executive, has stepped down from Apple’s board just as the iPhone maker pushes into developing television shows that pits it head-to-head with the media company.
Apple announced the news late on Friday in a one-sentence filing to the SEC. It said Mr Iger resigned on September 10 — the day of Apple’s iPhone keynote in which it announced that its streaming service, TV+, will cost $4.99 a month.
The technology company’s low-cost positioning came as a surprise, underscoring its desire to build up a massive network of subscribers in a crowded field dominated by Netflix, HBO Now and Hulu. Disney’s own streaming service, Disney Plus, which will include Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel content, launches in November at $7 a month.
Disney and Apple have a long and complicated history. The late Steve Jobs played a major role in the transformation of Pixar, purchasing it for $5m in 1986 and overseeing its transformation into an animation powerhouse. He was the majority owner when Disney bought it in 2006 for $7.4bn, turning him into the media group’s largest single shareholder with a 7 per cent stake.
Mr Iger joined Apple’s board in November 2011, a month after Jobs died.
His departure follows months of speculation, given the obvious conflict of interest as the Cupertino-based tech giant focuses on growing its movie, music and TV subscriber base.
In a statement released by Disney, Mr Iger said: “It has been an extraordinary privilege to have served on the Apple board for eight years, and I have the utmost respect for [chief executive] Tim Cook, his team at Apple and for my fellow board members. Apple is one of the world’s most-admired companies, known for the quality and integrity of its products and its people, and I am forever grateful to have served as a member of the company’s board.”
Mr Iger’s exit comes a decade after then-Google chief executive Eric Schmidt left Apple’s board. Jobs explained at the time that Google’s push into Android and the Chrome browser meant that Mr Schmidt’s “effectiveness as an Apple board member will be significantly diminished” because of conflicts of interest.
The Disney chief told Bloomberg TV earlier this year that he was “in constant discussion” with Apple about his role. He said he had already needed to step out of multiple board meetings when the topic of TV+ came up.
Apple added in a statement: “Bob has been an exemplary board member for nearly eight years, and for as long as he has led Disney he has been one of Apple’s most trusted business partners. He is a dedicated, visionary CEO and a role model for an entire generation of business leaders.
“More than anything, Bob is our friend. He leads with his heart and he has always been generous with his time and advice. While we will greatly miss his contributions as a board member, we respect his decision and we have every expectation that our relationship with both Bob and Disney will continue far into the future.”