September 17, 1997 12:50 PM PDT

Jobs-sharing is fine with Pixar

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Is absentee Pixar (PIXR) CEO Steve Jobs forgotten as well as gone?

Sources close to the company and analysts alike agree that Jobs's moonlighting as interim CEO of troubled Apple Computer (AAPL) is not likely to have much effect on the daily operations or long-term health of the animation studio that created the hugely successful 1995 feature film Toy Story.

"Jobs is the overall cheerleader for [Pixar]," said Art Rockwell, analyst with the Los Angeles-based Yaeger Capital Markets. "He's obviously involved on a strategic level with the company, but I don't think his influence is felt on a day-to-day basis."

Even on a strategic level, Pixar's game plan seems to be fairly fixed for the time being. Earlier this year the company signed a deal with Walt Disney Studios to jointly produce five movies over the next ten years. The next Pixar release won't come until a year from this Christmas, when the company will debut its second feature, A Bug's Life.

The company also downplayed the importance of the Jobs appointment at Apple.

"What's going on at Pixar is what's always gone on," Pixar director Skip M. Brittenham said. "We feel very comfortable with Pixar, and Steve Jobs is still very much involved with the company."

"This is a non-event for Pixar," agreed chief financial officer Lawrence Levy. "We're set up with an office of the president [composed of Jobs, Levy, and chief technology officer Edwin Catmul] that has run successfully for the last few years, through Steve's work at Next and everything else. It's working great and he's very involved."

Levy said there was no sign Jobs would become Apple's permanent CEO and strand Pixar. "I'm not worried about that," he said.

Wall Street seems to agree that things at Pixar are business as usual. "I would measure it by the stock price, and it hasn't reacted negatively," said Brent Suen, analyst with San Francisco-based investment firm L.H. Alton. "I think that the institutional investors at Pixar are composed of some very technologically savvy people. If this was a negative, you would have seen stock get hit."

Suen also credited the rest of the Pixar management with maintaining investor confidence. Levy and Catmull "have a lot of credibility on Wall Street," said Suen. "I think they have enough people where they're in good shape. It's a well-managed, well-run company, currently and formerly."

Pixar was trading at 22 this morning, up a half point.

CNET's Suzan Revah contributed to this report.

 

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