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I helped Steve Jobs build Pixar but missed out on his Apple comeback, ex-CFO says

Steve Jobs
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Steve Jobs

Lawrence Levy, who helped Steve Jobs put Pixar on the Hollywood map, told CNBC on Thursday he did not end up investing in Apple after Jobs made his comeback at the tech giant.

"Much to the regret of my wife," the former Pixar chief financial officer said on "Squawk Box," while talking about his new book, "To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History."

Levy, a Harvard-trained lawyer and Silicon Valley executive, said Jobs called out of the blue one day to try to persuade him to join Pixar, which was on the verge of failure.

"When I met he in 1994, I think he had a string of like four failures," Levy recalled, including a first stint at Apple. "And he had put $50 million into Pixar and had nothing to show for it."

At the time, Pixar was working on "Toy Story," its first animated feature film. Released in 1995, the movie defied all expectations, becoming the biggest film the year, with a total domestic box office of nearly $192 million.

Nine days later, Pixar became a public company, with a market value near $1.5 billion. With solid stable hits, including "Finding Nemo" in 2003, Pixar drew interest from Walt Disney, which purchased the Pixar Animation Studios for $7.4 billion in 2006.

"As a unit of Disney, it's been an incredible success. The key to that acquisition was to keep Pixar Pixar," said Levy, who left day-to-day duties at Pixar in 2000. He remained on the board until the Disney acquisition.

Looking back over his time working with Jobs at Pixar, Levy said: "Steve was absolutely brilliant. I mean almost like a genius."

"He always pushed you to another level," Levy continued. "Half of the things he said were shear genius, and half of the things he said were a little crazy."

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