Jeffrey Katzenberg’s $1.7B Quibi Fail: A Case Study in Egotistical Leadership

Steve Glaveski
5 min readMay 27, 2020

Leadership is many things to many people.

However, the common consensus amongst most credible thinkers and practitioners is that effective leadership is characterized by attributes such as humility, effective decision-making, facilitation of outcomes, transparent communication, effective delegation, empowering others to succeed, and taking ownership for one’s actions.

Jeffrey Katzenberg is best known for co-founding Dreamworks animation, serving as chairman at Walt Disney Studios for ten years, and producing timeless hits such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Shrek, Madagascar, Monsters Inc and Kung Fu Panda.

Quibi — Quick Bites

Buoyed on by his earlier successes, Katzenberg, now 69, more recently led the charge to raising US$1.75B in capital to fund a new company, Quibi — a mobile app focused on producing ‘quality’, short-form content.

Their mantra is big stories, quick bites.

Recode Media Interview

Speaking with Peter Kafka on the Recode Media podcast, Katzenberg’s language and attitude was diametrically opposed to what you’d expect from somebody with a lifetime of experience at the highest level.

He was defensive.

He was arrogant.

He offered up absolute statements.

“Very, very good actually always works!”

“You’ve seen the content…there’s nothing like it!”

When his arguments on why Quibi would succeed were struggling to move the already pessimistic Kafka, Katzenberg played the ego and experience card…“Here’s my experience from 45 years of being in storytelling…”.

Henry Ford was right. He was once quoted as saying “None of our men are ‘experts. We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. As soon as a man

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Steve Glaveski

CEO of Collective Campus. HBR writer. Author of Time Rich, and Employee to Entrepreneur. Host of Future Squared podcast. Occasional surfer.