Rumors that Apple will buy Disney have been circulating for years, but will it actually happen? Experts say there’s very little evidence to suggest a future acquisition.
The two companies have a positive history together and Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs and Disney’s CEO Bob Iger had a close friendship, with Iger previously serving on Apple’s board. In his memoir, Iger said he thinks Disney and Apple might’ve merged if Jobs, who died in 2011, had lived longer.
A deal would shake up both the tech and media worlds, forming a behemoth in both industries with several lines of businesses — from theme parks and toys to iPhones and iPads — that have their share of loyal fans. The timing, at least on paper, would seem to make sense, with Apple in a strong financial position and Disney facing challenges. But it doesn’t make sense for Apple to bring Disney into the fold for a myriad of reasons.
While Apple’s market capitalization of $3 trillion dwarfs Disney’s $150 billion, Apple has historically avoided purchasing name-brand companies, or merger and acquisition in general. The tech giant’s largest acquisition was Dr. Dre’s beats Electronics, which it purchased for $3 billion. Most of its deals have served to augment existing services or products, while a deal with Disney would fundamentally transform the company.
The two companies both have streaming services — Apple TV+ and Disney+, respectively — but that’s about where the similarities end. While Apple TV+ was another example of the tech giant exploring different consumer markets, Disney+ was a life raft for Disney amid the economic fallout from the pandemic. Apple has historically only gotten into businesses that boast high margins, and Disney+ continues to be a money loser. Disney is also in a bit of hot water over allegedly committing fraud by hiding Disney+’s losses during the pandemic and withholding millions in Avatar profits while prioritizing its own streaming service.
Apple would have to absorb a massive work force from Disney, and the two cultures don’t mix. Disney comes from an entertainment background — its theme park employees are called “cast members” — and have roots in the media world. While Apple has dipped its toes in the media world with Apple TV+, it has deep roots as a tech company, and work at a different pace, typically with stretches where employees sprint ahead of big product or service launches. In addition, the tech giant has no experience running theme parks or selling the types of products Disney offers.
An Apple-Disney merger could also raise regulatory concerns. The Federal Trade Commission and other lawmakers have been working to limit big tech acquisitions. CNBC said purchasing Disney would further increase Apple’s dominance over the global economy, which could result in pushback from the US government. Over the last few years, regulators have been increasingly looking at Big Tech with more skeptical eyes, and a big deal like this would be a red flag.
Apple teaming up with Disney would certainly be interesting, but we’ll likely be left to speculate on the possibilities for the foreseeable future.