Fools' First Loves: Disney

You know you've found that special someone when she gives you the first stock you'll ever own. In 1986, I was a freshman in college, majoring in journalism with a minor in music. I already knew that the girl that I had been dating for a few months was special. One share of Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) confirmed it.

I framed the certificate and ultimately married the girl (because framing the girl and marrying the stock just wouldn't have made much sense).

This simple gift opened my eyes in many ways. The sports section had always satisfied my statistical appetite, but now I found myself tantalized by the business section of the paper as well. It wasn't long before I switched majors (hello, business management and organization) and developed an interest in investing.

. K-E-Y. Why Disney?
My soul mate didn't choose Disney by accident. She knew that I grew up making family treks to Disney World several times a year. Disney was all about the theme parks, the studio, and the characters at the time. It would be another 10 years before Disney's $19 billion acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC. That deal's additions of ABC and ESPN would make the company a more full-fledged entertainment empire.

Ten years after the ABC buyout, Disney is working on yet another meaty acquisition, preparing to absorb Pixar (Nasdaq: PIXR  ) later this year. It's the perfect match, since Pixar -- whose stock has soared 129% higher since its first recommendation to Motley Fool Stock Advisor subscribers nearly three years ago -- helps fill Disney's surprisingly widening gap in theatrical animation.

Disney has always attracted bright thinkers, but they haven't always stuck around. Michael Eisner's micromanagement drove many of those sharp minds away. These days, you'll find ex-Disney executives running eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) and working on turnarounds at both Six Flags (NYSE: PKS  ) and Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) . Recently promoted Disney CEO Bob Iger is making good on his promise to delegate authority. That could be monumental, if it helps to keep Disney's current brain trust in place.

Disney recorded $2.5 billion in profits on $31.9 billion in revenues last fiscal year. Even before Pixar's high-margin gravy, Disney was expecting continued bottom-line growth by single-digit percentages over the next few years.

To love, to honor, and to hold
I never let that girl go. Same goes for the stock. When Disney declared a 4-for-1 stock split, I kept half and sent a share apiece to my two sisters. After all, they were all part of the Disney experience in my home. My parents were inspired to buy some shares in Disney, too. In fact, it's the only stock they own.

An investment in Disney made 20 years ago would have grown tenfold in value by now. Obviously, I'm not banking my retirement on that single gift. Now that I've got a family of my own, I've spent far more on Disney's parks and products than it has returned to me as an investor.

That's not the point, though. Owning a piece of Disney, as small as my fractional stake may be, is a vote for pixie dust, ageless enchantment, and family entertainment.

I've gone on to take much greater positions in companies of all sizes -- all because of that one introductory gift. Some shares have soared. Some have cratered. My stake in Disney has lived through it all.

It's a company that I do love. It came from the hands of someone that I love even more.

Take a look at the rest of today's package:

Pixar, Gap, and eBay are active selections in theMotley Fool Stock Advisornewsletter. If or when Pixar shareholders have their shares exchanged in the all-stock deal for freshly minted shares of Disney, it may make Disney a Stock Advisor pick, too. To fall in love with some of David and Tom Gardner's other market-crushing picks, take a chance on a free 30-day trial subscription to the service.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz obviously owns a pair of shares in Disney.The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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Rick Munarriz

Rick has been writing for Motley Fool since 1995 where he's a Consumer and Tech Stocks Specialist. Yes, that's a long time. He's been an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and a portfolio lead analyst for Motley Fool Supernova since each newsletter service's inception. He earned his BBA and MBA from the University of Miami, and he now lives a block from his alma mater.

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