Fast Company shares the story via an excerpt from the Becoming Steve Jobs book that's coming out on March 24th.
Thirty minutes before Jobs and Iger were to announce the sale of Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion, the Apple co-founder sat Iger down on an outdoor bench at Pixar and delivered the news: "My cancer is back."
No one else knew, not Jobs' children, not Apple's board, no one.
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."
Iger decided to go forward with the acquisition, despite the risks. He didn't tell anyone about Jobs' secret except Disney vice president and general counsel Alan Braverman.
Apparently, Steve Jobs felt a connection with Iger and confided to him regularly about his sickness over the next few years. "I always knew exactly what was going on with Steve medically," Iger said.
Fast Company notes that the two became so close that Iger turned down an opportunity to join Google's board because it would have made Jobs upset. They also talked about buying Yahoo together.
The book, Becoming Steve Jobs, appears to have a host of interesting new tidbits about the Apple co-founder's life. You can pre-order it here.