Bob Iger Has Considered Running for Political Office, But Wife Willow Bay Is Strongly Opposed

James Rainey
Variety

Bob Iger has been rumored for years to be toying with the idea of running for office. Political pros speculated he might run for governor of New York, or California. Some people suggested he would make a great mayor of New York City. A few years back, an internal Disney video was critiqued like a campaign ad.

The Disney CEO confirmed in a recent conversation with Variety — as he was named the magazine’s Showman of the Year — that he has long been intrigued by the idea of becoming a leader in the public sector. But despite his impending retirement from Disney in June, 2018, when he will be 67, Iger says he has no plans to run.

It seems at least one formidable barrier stands in the way.

“My wife is dead against it and has said, ‘Not with this wife,’ ” Iger said with a laugh.”My relationship with her is good enough and important enough to me to not challenge her convictions in that regard.”

Iger has been married for 21 years to Willow Bay, the former CNN anchor and current director of USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism. They have two teenage boys — in addition to two daughters Iger had in a previous marriage.

Iger acknowledges he has mused about a move to the public sector for many years. “I’ve been intrigued with politics for a long time,” said the CEO, who is an avid student of history and leaders like Winston Churchill. “I have considered running for certain offices, but not president of the United States. I never presumed that possibility existed.”

The former ABC executive seems to have had something close to a premonition about Donald Trump’s ascension. The Disney boss was a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton, hosting a fundraiser for the Democrat in the recent presidential election. But he said his gut had told him well prior to the Nov. 8 election that America was open to electing an outsider.

“The whole idea of ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ has been on my mind for a long time,” Iger said. “I didn’t presume I could be Mr. Smith. I am not suggesting I supported [Trump] or anything like that. But, as we saw last week, it was time for America to elect someone who had never been in the military or in elected office. I think America has gotten really tired of Washington-based politics.”

Iger is currently interviewing writers to help him with a book on leadership, with lessons gleaned from his 11 years at the helm of the Walt Disney Company. After joining a failed bid this year to bring an NFL stadium — and at least one team — to Carson, Iger’s plan to become a pro sports owner was sidelined. He says he has not yet made any major post-Disney plans.

“There is going to be some relaxation and down time in my life,” he told Variety. “I am determined to figure that out. I am looking forward to that.

“I follow something on Instagram called ‘Beautiful places in Italy,’ ” he added. “Every day they post a picture. I see these pictures and I say, ‘I would like to go there, and go there and go there and spend a couple of days, instead of just [getting] a two-hour tour.’ “

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