George Bailey, played by James Stewart, sees how life would change if he had not been born. While watching the leadership drama unfold at the Disney Company, I began to imagine how a different scenario could affect the company.

Since the 1980s, I have studied, reported on, and written about Disney, and this exercise of re-telling history is a result.

Marriott was a 142- hotel chain in the middle of a major expansion in 1984. According to news reports at the time, it considered joining Saul Steinberg in his bid to buy a controlling stake in the Disney company. Gary Wilson was Marriott's Chief Financial Officer at the time of the merger.

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Disney's stock plummeted after years of lackluster movies and poor attendance at its two-year-old Epcot Center. Eisner hired Wilson away from Marriott to be his own finance executive a year later with a board seat as an incentive.

Marriott and its prey could look vastly different than they do today if Marriott joined the bid. Other companies could do the same.

Disney has 28,000 acres in Florida. New hotels could have been built on that property. Disney had two large theme parks on that land, but hadn't built a new hotel in 13 years.

Disneyland was a good place to build a hotel. The Disneyland Hotel is not owned by Disney. Jack Wrather, a friend of the founder, gave him money to build the park after Disney tapped out his finances.

The two sites would have been great for Marriott. It told shareholders in 1984 that it was going to add 25,000 high-end hotel rooms.

Marriott was struggling to pull off a diversified strategy back then, and a Disney deal would have helped. The Great American theme parks opened in 1976 outside Chicago and Los Angeles and Marriott was selling them. The parks offered limited growth opportunity and a dramatic appreciation in the value of the land of one park.

Marriott would have been able to offer more food services if it had scale with theme parks. It used to provide those for schools, airlines and other places. Theme park visitors can work up a lot of calories.

Some of the biggest players in the media and entertainment world would be affected by a Disney takeover. Disney might not own the biggest hit making studio in Hollywood. Roy Disney's takeover bid faded before a new offer came along.

Eisner probably wouldn't have stayed with Disney without the real estate and theme parks. He worked at the Mouse House for over two decades.

Eisner turned down the chance to run the studio. According to my book The Disney Touch, Ron Miller tried to hire Eisner away from Paramount Pictures, where he was president. Eisner wanted to take over the theme park unit.

It is unlikely that Disney could pull off a $19 billion merger with Capital Cities/ABC without Eisner at the helm. Disney gained control of the ABC TV network, eight TV stations, 21 radio stations, and cable channels.

It landed Disney's sports channel that dominated sports programming for decades and has a robust streaming service.

At the Skift Global Forum in September, we will have an interview with Disney Chairman Josh D'Amaro.

Capital Cities/ABC most likely would have eventually found another merger partner or someone to sell its 80 percent stake inESPN in the fast-consolidating media landscape of the 1990s

The media moguls were assembling separate collections of regional sports channels to take on ESPN with a collection of programming from small professional league and college conferences The Fox Sports Net was formed in 1995 after merging their efforts.

Fantasy Thinking 

Disney might never have gotten Bob Iger, the president of Cap Cities, if it hadn't merged with Capital Cities. After that deal, Iger joined Disney.

Disney became even more formidable as a result of Iger's deals.

The $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar by Disney was the first deal by Iger. Jobs would not have been as attracted to a smaller Disney without the theme park rides.

It is possible that comic book powerhouse Marvel went looking for another partner without Disney. Iger paid $4 billion for the rights to the comic book characters Iron Man and Spiderman. The problem is that Universal Studios has the rights to the east coast theme park. The Universal Studios theme parks were owned by theMCA at the time.

George Lucas has a long-time deal with Twentieth Century Fox and most likely would have given Murdoch's studio first crack at his Stars Wars empire if Disney had no theme parks. Maybe Lucas would have taken the call from Universal to put Darth Vader and his friends in a theme park. Iger paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm and the "Stars Wars" franchise.

Disney would most likely have been in the sights of another media company if it had a theme park.

Yes, that's right. Fantasy thinking is what this is. This will never happen and never will. Disney's market cap has grown from $10 billion in the 1980's to $175 billion today. Marriott is the largest hotel operator with a portfolio of more than 30 hotels.

Reality can be just as wonderful as in the movie "It's a wonderful Life".

The former bureau chief for BusinessWeek in Los Angeles is an instructor at the University of Southern California. The Disney Touch: How a Daring Management Team Revived an Entertainment Empire was written by him.