Disney Dissidents Sue Over Ceo Search

11 May 2005

Like the revered Tom of Tom & Jerry fame, Roy Disney and Stanley Gold are back to terrorise the peaceful inhabitants of the Mouse House, aka the Walt Disney Company.

The ex-directors have slapped a lawsuit on their former employer claiming the board made false statements to shareholders over hiring a new ceo.

The job has been awarded to Disney president Michael Iger, who takes the hotseat on October 1. But Disney and Gold argue that the search for incumbent Michael Eisner's successor was a sham.

They want the Delaware chancery court (the backdrop to the Michael Ovitz pay-off epic earlier this year) to compel the board to reveal details of the process, including the number of external candidates interviewed and how serious those talks were.

The disgruntled pair, who were forced from the company's board on mandatory age grounds in 2003, say in a statement: "The ceo selection process precluded serious and effective consideration of external candidates."

They claim only one was interviewed, eBay chief Meg Whitman who eventually withdrew because, it was reported at the time, she felt the board was dragging its feet. They also say Eisner was present or set to be present during external candidate interviews.

But Disney spokeswoman Zenia Muca volleys with ... "this frivolous and baseless lawsuit reflects the mean spirited, self-serving interest of two ex-board members."

Lobs back Mike Sitrick, spokesman for Disney and Gold: "We believe the facts will speak for themselves and ultimately we will prevail."

Chairman George Mitchell, who is named in the suit along with Eisner, Iger and five other directors, previously opined Iger was rewarded with the job after a "lengthy, thorough and professional selection process", which included a careful review of outside candidates.

Data sourced from latimes.com: additional content by WARC staff