Here’s the Dramatic Moment Steve Jobs Told Disney’s CEO His Cancer Had Returned

It was a cool Tuesday on January 24, 2006 in Emeryville, California. Steve Jobs and Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, sat on an outside bench on Pixar’s campus to talk. Within half an hour, Iger would publically announce Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, which Jobs owned a majority share of, for $7.4 billion. But at that moment, Jobs looked at Iger and shared a secret that would put the CEO in a very difficult position.

“Bob, there’s something really important I’ve got to tell you. My cancer is back.”

In their new biography “Becoming Steve jobs: The Evolution Of A Reckless Upstart Into A Visionary Leader,” Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli set out to debunk the Steve Jobs portrayed in Walter Isaacson’s biography, which was criticized by current Apple CEO Tim Cook as a “tremendous disservice.”

The new biography, which also revealed what happened when Tim Cook offered a dying Jobs his liver, covers Jobs’ NeXT years along with the dramatic scene right before the Pixar acquisition, which Bob Iger shared in detail.

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When Jobs told Iger his pancreatic cancer was back, only Jobs’ wife and doctors knew. Iger explains how the dying Jobs offered him a last-second chance to back out of the deal because he wasn’t sure how long he’d live:

“He said, ‘I’ve made myself a promise that I’m going to be alive for Reed’s graduation from high school.’ [Reed is Jobs’s eldest son.]

So I say, of course, ‘How old is Reed?’

He tells me that Reed is fourteen, and will be graduating in four years. He says, ‘Frankly, they tell me I’ve got a fifty-fifty chance of living five years.’

‘Are you telling me this for any other reason than wanting to get it off your chest?’ I asked.

He says, ‘I’m telling you because I’m giving you a chance to back out of the deal.’

So I look at my watch, and we’ve got thirty minutes. In thirty minutes we’re going to make this announcement. We’ve got television crews, we’ve got the board votes, we’ve got investment bankers. The wheels are turning. And I’m thinking, We’re in this post Sarbanes-Oxley world, and Enron, and fiduciary responsibility, and he is going to be our largest shareholder, and I’m now being asked to bury a secret. He told me, ‘My kids don’t know. Not even the Apple board knows. Nobody knows, and you can’t tell anybody.’

Basically, thanks.”

As we all know, Iger decided to go forward with the acquisition, but he didn’t keep the cancer a secret. According to Fast Company, he only told one other person — Disney VP and general counsel Alan Braverman.

Over the next few years after the revelation, Jobs and Iger became close, and Jobs updated him about his health on a regular basis. “I always knew exactly what was going on with Steve medically,” Iger said.

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Jobs even spoke with his wife, Laurene, before telling Iger about his cancer. Jobs told her he trusted him with his gut. The biography details:

“They both felt that it was the right thing to do, given the magnitude of the sale. Their discussion had revolved around a single question: Could Steve really trust Iger to keep the secret? Steve told her they could. ‘I love that guy,’ he told Laurene.”

It was in that time that Jobs and Iger also discussed buying Yahoo together, and Iger even declined a position on Google’s board because he knew Jobs would be jealous.

Becoming Steve Jobs” goes on sale tomorrow, March 24.

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