Dissident Disney Duo Claim Victory Over Eisner

30 September 2004

Roy E Disney (nephew of the more famous Walt) and his longtime investment advisor Stanley Gold are likely celebrating victory in their ten-month offensive to dethrone Michael Eisner, the controversial overlord/ceo of the Walt Disney Company.

Both campaigners are Disney shareholders and former non-executive directors of the company, whose ousting from the board late last year they believe to have been engineered by Eisner. Since when they have lobbied vigorously and relentlessly for his removal.

Whether or not they have succeeded remains to be seen. Certainly, Eisner has let it be known he will not seek to renew his contract when it expires in September 2006.

Furthermore, the Disney board said last week it will hire an independent headhunter to produce a shortlist of candidates, with a view to identifying Eisner's replacement by June of next year.

Although neither of the rebels is openly triumphalist about the news, on Tuesday they applauded the Disney board for its "positive agenda" in seeking Eisner's successor. At the same time they identified themselves with the decision, saying the board had "displayed precisely the kind of leadership and independence" for which they lobbied.

Corporate Disney, however, remains tight-lipped. But others see it as a coup for the dissidents. "It looks to me like they're declaring victory. That's pretty unambiguous," opined Patrick S McGurn, senior vp and special counsel at Institutional Shareholder Services.

Added McGurn: "[They] are giving the board some breathing room. If the board follows through, they're indicating they won't do anything [about reviving the proxy fight]."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff