Former Disney Finance Chief Describes ‘Odd’ Ovitz

24 November 2004

Following the conclusion of Walt Disney Company ceo Michael Eisner's performance in a certain Delaware courtroom, former finance chief Stephen Bollenbach has taken center stage.

Bollenbach has been giving evidence in the high-profile lawsuit brought by Disney shareholders over the hiring and firing of former president Michael Ovitz.

Ovitz, who was dumped after just fifteen troubled months, had an unusual management style, says Bollenbach. Most of the problems arose from Ovitz's attempts to find out about the company and its employees. Bollenbach cites an incident in which Ovitz sat fellow executives in a circle and asked them to nominate the most important figure in history.

He alienated colleagues and drew complaints about his leadership said Bollenbach, who told the court: "His style was not what people in most big companies are used to," and his methods were "odd as opposed to useful".

But he maintains Ovitz was hard working and he never saw anything that would have justified firing him for cause.

And cause lies at the heart of the lawsuit. Shareholders say the directors of the company were negligent in their scrutiny of Ovitz's contract and should not have allowed him leave with a $140 million (€107, £75) severance payment in 1995. They claim there was enough reason to fire him and they now want the money back, plus compensation.

The case continues.

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