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Bob Iger Confirms Why Disney Passed on Twitter

By Evan Niu, CFA – Updated Sep 24, 2019 at 3:05PM

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"Why do I endure this pain?"

Back in 2016, when Twitter (TWTR 1.37%) was on the ropes, it tried shopping itself around to a handful of giant companies including Disney (DIS -2.31%), Alphabet subsidiary Google, and salesforce.com. The drama, which ultimately did not culminate in an acquisition offer, largely played out in media reports, although Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed a year later that the House of Mouse had considered such a deal but instead decided to take a majority stake in BAMTech.

"We thought Twitter had global reach, a pretty interesting user interface, and a compelling way that we might be able to present and sell the content our company makes to the consumer," Iger said at the 2017 Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. "But we decided, ultimately, not to go in that direction. And we ended up -- took us months to do it -- buying a platform called BAMTech."

Woman walking by a Twitter logo

Image source: Twitter. Image copyright Atsushi Nakamichi for Twitter, Inc.

Iger has now confirmed why Disney passed on scooping up Twitter.

"The nastiness is extraordinary"

Twitter's reputation as a safe haven for trolls is well-established. The company has spent years attempting to battle abuse and harassment but made little meaningful progress. Disney's family-friendly brand image could be tarnished by buying a platform with a notorious Nazi problem. Those concerns had already been reported previously, but Iger acknowledged them officially in a new interview with The New York Times.

Iger had been working on a deal but decided at the last minute that it would be the wrong choice. The chief executive wanted a new way to distribute content, but Twitter's challenges were simply too daunting. Iger told the Times:

The troubles were greater than I wanted to take on, greater than I thought it was responsible for us to take on. There were Disney brand issues, the whole impact of technology on society. The nastiness is extraordinary. I like looking at my Twitter newsfeed because I want to follow 15, 20 different subjects.

Then you turn and look at your notifications and you're immediately saying, why am I doing this? Why do I endure this pain? Like a lot of these platforms, they have the ability to do a lot of good in our world. They also have an ability to do a lot of bad. I didn't want to take that on.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey had joined the Disney board of directors in 2013, but conflicts of interest grew over the years as tech companies pushed deeper into media and entertainment.

Dorsey and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg did not stand for reelection in 2018. "Given our evolving business and the businesses Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Dorsey are in, it has become increasingly difficult for them to avoid conflicts relating to Board matters, and they are not standing for reelection," the company said in a statement.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of CRM and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GOOG, GOOGL, CRM, Twitter, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney, short October 2019 $125 calls on Walt Disney, and long January 2021 $100 calls on CRM. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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