New Yorker Article Undermines Disney Directors' Defense

17 January 2005

Last week's New Yorker magazine threw the cat among the pigeons in the long-running Disney shareholders versus Disney directors saga.

Although the magazine is famed for its humor, the Walt Disney Company board is not laughing. Funny bones at the Mouse House are emphatically untickled by the NY's assertion that key documents related to the case failed to surface during the nine years the Michael Ovitz hiring/firing sore has been festering.

The magazine's information suggests that witnesses for the defense told one story in court and another back in the Disney bunker. One example cites a document in which former company president Ovitz' recalls ceo Michael D Eisner laughing at his worry that Disney's board might not approve Ovitz' appointment.

The potentially deadly article claims that Ovitz remembers Eisner "ticking off the various ways that board members were beholden to him, and assuring Ovitz that they would do what he wanted."

A lawyer for the shareholders, Steven Schulman, told the court that he had called the article's author, James B Stewart, who told him that while he did not have the documents, they had been shown to him or read to him.

But Stewart did not say who had shown him the documents, and Schulman (inexplicably) failed to ask.

Judge William B Chandler III of the Delaware chancery court rejected the shareholders' request to interrogate Disney officials over the documents.

However, he commanded the company's document custodian to swear an affidavit that the company had looked for and could not find the documents that writer Stewart claimed he saw.

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