Disney's Dollar Deluge Enriches Execs

07 January 2005

Walt Disney Company ceo Michael D Eisner in 2004 proved himself one of history's great corporate survivors.

Despite a shareholder revolt that stripped him of his chairmanship, the steely Eisner clung onto his job as ceo, saw off a hostile takeover by Comcast Corporation, and held his own in an (unfinished) courtroom battle with shareholders over the the hiring and firing of Michael Ovitz [WAMN: 22-Nov-04].

History is not alone in its admiration for the tenacious chief executive. His boardroom colleagues also felt the need to express their appreciation - in the shape of a $7.35 million (€5.57m; £3.92m) cash bonus, a useful supplement to his $1m salary.

But Eisner's reward was niggardly alongside that of co-director Robert A Iger, Disney president/coo, into whose outstretched hand was heaped a salary of $1.5m, cash bonus of $6.5m, and other emoluments of $4m - total $12m.

The compensation committee's rationale for such largesse is the 72% growth in Disney's earnings per share. Also contrition that Eisner's base salary is lower than that of ceos in comparable companies.

Dissident shareholders (and former directors) Roy E Disney and Stanley Gold, who led last year's shareholder revolt, attacked Eisner's bonus, saying it "flies in the face of both logic and propriety."

But as one industry cynic asked rhetorically: "What's a few trailing zeroes among friends?"

  • Meantime, cross-fading from the cartoon world to reality, the Disney board revealed Thursday it had bowed to pressure from shareholders to permanently split the roles of chairman and chief executive - both formerly occupied by Eisner.

    The chair has been filled since March by George J Mitchell, longtime Disney director, Eiser ally, and former US senator.

    Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff