Will Steve Jobs Be Disney's Big Cheese? If the Pixar deal goes through, he'll be the biggest shareholder in the Mouse House. He won't be shy about expressing himself, either http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jan2006/nf20060120_2325_db016.htm For a Magic Kingdom, the boardroom of the Walt Disney Co. (DIS ) can be a pretty nasty place. In Michael Eisner's 20-plus years at the company, there were shouting matches, backroom intrigue, and more than a little backstabbing. Eisner himself forced one board member out of the Mouse House, when she spoke up in favor of dissident members who questioned Eisner's grasp on the CEO job. Another board member, Walt's nephew Roy Disney, was also shown the door -- ostensibly for passing the mandatory retirement age for the board. Now, as rumors continue to circulate that Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs will sell his company to Disney and join the Disney board, veteran mouse watchers are bracing for new fireworks. Think of Jobs joining Disney as Silicon Valley fire hitting old-media kerosene. This much is certain about Jobs, who has catapulted Apple (AAPL ) from the brink of collapse to prosperity through strategic vision, a virtuosic feel for what consumers want, and the sheer force of his personality: If he thinks he's right, get out of the way. And given his astounding success not only at Apple, but as the most successful movie mogul of the past decade, he'll likely have opinions aplenty for Disney's directors. The 13 members of the Disney board, which has been beefed up recently with experienced -- if somewhat traditional -- new directors, could be feeling the Jobs Force up close and personal. DOMINANT INVESTOR. The deal could still fall apart, and details of the negotiations are unclear. Pixar has a stellar reputation, with such blockbusters as Toy Story and Finding Nemo, and Jobs could still shop it around to other studios eager to partner with it. Or he could sign with Disney to extend its 13-year distribution agreement to market and place Pixar flicks in movie theaters -- with Pixar getting a better slice of the profits. But if Disney does buy Pixar, Jobs would become the company's most important player for no other reason than the large chunk of Disney stock he would get in the transaction. He would be its largest shareholder -- by far. According to media analyst Richard Greenfield, at the $7 billion price tag now being talked about, Jobs would own about 6% of Disney's stock -- with the retired Eisner ironically next, with 1.7%, according to last year's proxy. (Roy Disney is believed to hold less than 1%.) In the early '80s, the Fort Worth billionaire Bass brothers owned 25% of the company but were mostly passive investors. Those were gentler times for Disney. Today, the Bass boys' share is below 5%, and they have no representation on the board, mostly because they like to lie low. TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT? Lying low doesn't seem to be in Steve Jobs's nature. He can be forceful and outspoken when he wants to be. One Disney board member has said in the past that he worries that Jobs would run roughshod over a Disney board that still seems to struggle with asserting its independence. When the board couldn't decide between two candidates for its open chairmanship in December, for instance, it quietly asked 72-year-old George Mitchell, the former Democratic senator from Maine and a calm consensus-builder, to stay as an interim chair. There has been speculation that Jobs may push to become chairman himself, although some Disney board members think he shouldn't hold the top board seat on two large companies -- especially two that increasingly are doing business together; Disney is selling content to Apple for its video iPod. More likely, as a board member, Jobs would be forceful in his vision for the company's future. Yet that could be tough enough for a board that traditionally has tried to express itself through consensus. Remember, this is the same guy who returned to Apple ostensibly as a consultant, with no interest in running the show -- but who quickly did just that, showing former Apple boss Gil Amelio the door. Jobs may chafe at Disney's stock price, which has risen by 13% during new President and CEO Robert Iger's three months on the job, but is still down for the year and a shadow of the valuations it hit in the '90s. Shares closed at $26.43 on Jan. 19. The animation unit certainly will be stronger with the full-time addition of Pixar's resident genius, John Lassiter. But with the exception of its Pirates of the Caribbean series and Jerry Bruckheimer productions, Disney's live-action films have had more misses than hits. Jobs, who fancies himself as a Hollywood pro, no doubt will have something to say there. ZEN CHALLENGE. Moreover, Disney is a mainstay of the old-media world, with capital-intensive assets such as theme parks, radio stations, and consumer products. The parks just had a strong year domestically, but margins are still on the thin side. And Jobs isn't likely to sit still while Disney's 40%-owned Euro Disney continues to spin its financial wheels in Paris. The radio stations are up for sale, and the consumer-product unit is expanding into new areas like computer games. Jobs likes that kind of stuff. But he also likes things to happen yesterday -- witness the phenomenal growth of iPods. It could all test the karma of the great bearded one. Steve Jobs on the Disney board would probably be good for Disney shareholders -- but it could be hell for those who sit around the board table with him.