Disney's Once and Future Kings Secure their Fortunes

13 January 2006

The Mouse House continues to generously reward its fat cats, even after they have moved to new hunting grounds.

The Walt Disney Company's colourful former ceo Michael Eisner pocketed a $9.1 million (€7.5m; £5.1m) bonus in 2005, on top of a $1m salary - but not quite the biggest payout he received during his 21-year reign.

The latest payday pales into insignificance compared with the eyewatering $576m Eisner received when he exercised stock options in 1998.

Eisner, who abdicated under shareholder pressure in September in favor of Robert Iger, had been expected to remain at Disney in a consultancy capacity. But he has seemingly decided his future lies in front of the cameras and is to debut as a talk show host on cable business channel CNBC [WAMN: 11-Jan-06].

Despite his departure, the Disney dollars will continue to flow in the shape of a $7.5m annual bonus until at least 2007.

Meantime, incumbent Iger has been awarded a hefty pay rise alongside his promotion. His annual salary jumped 33% to a minimum of $2m when he took the helm. In addition, he will be eligible for a $7.5m bonus depending on the entertainment empire's performance.

The payouts have failed to ruffle the feathers of Disney investors.

Avers Patrick McGurn from Institutional Shareholder Services: "While these payments may seem eye-popping, it seems more closely aligned with the company's performance and is less likely to raise the ire of shareholders than in years past."

Disney has been regularly dragged through US courts by disgruntled investors over payments to senior executives, most notoriously over the hiring and $140m firing of ex-president Michael Ovitz [WAMN: 10-Aug-05].

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online and latimes.com; additional content by WARC staff