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Bob Iger says Disney abandoned Twitter acquisition in 2016 after discovering ‘substantial’ amount of bots

September 8, 2022, 12:59 AM UTC
Former Disney CEO Bob Iger
Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Former Disney CEO Bob Iger says that he was spooked by the prevalence of bots on Twitter long before Elon Musk.

At Vox Media’s Code conference on Wednesday, Iger discussed Disney’s efforts to acquire Twitter in 2016, and pointed to Twitter’s bot spam accounts as one of the factors that led Disney to ultimately decide against moving forward with an acquisition.

A  “substantial amount, but not a majority” of Twitter’s users were fake accounts, Iger said Wednesday, noting that the entertainment giant had looked “very closely” at Twitter’s users during deal negotiations.

Disney’s deal talks with Twitter have been known for years, having leaked at the time they were underway, along with the names of other suitors looking at Twitter, such as Google and Salesforce. Twitter ultimately didn’t strike a deal with anyone.

According to Iger, Disney was very close to consummating the deal with Twitter. “Negotiation was just about done,” Iger said. But after a weekend of thinking things over, Iger said he decided that running the social media company would be too much trouble.

“It’s a great solution from a distribution perspective,” Iger said. “But it would come with so many other challenges and complexities that as a manager of a global brand, I was not prepared to take on a major distraction, and having to manage circumstances that weren’t even close to anything that we had faced before.”

Iger’s experience has interesting parallels to current deal drama involving Twitter. Tesla CEO Musk, who signed a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter in April, is now seeking to back out of the deal because of what he contends are greater than disclosed number of artificial bots on the platform.

While Twitter has said in regulatory filing for years that it estimates roughly 5% of its more than 200 million monthly users are bots, Musk claims the number is much higher.

Asked about Disney’s abandoned Twitter deal by an audience member on Wednesday, Iger wondered aloud if Musk “saw what we saw” when backing out of the deal.

“Maybe he woke up one day and said ‘I can’t handle this,’” Iger said. “But he doesn’t seem like the type.”

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