Oscar Winner Poitier Testifies in Disney vs Disney Case

08 December 2004

Distinguished Hollywood actor and Oscar winner Sidney Poitier on Tuesday testified in the long-running legal saga that sees shareholders in the Walt Disney Company seeking financial redress from the Disney board for its massive $140 million (€104.19m; £71.95m) payoff in 1996 to former president Michael Ovitz.

Poitier, a Disney board director at the time of Ovitz' ousting, was testifying on behalf of the defendants. He told the Delware Chancery court he believed there to be a "mismatch" between Ovitz and Disney's corporate culture that eventually made it impossible for the latter to remain with the company.

Then chairman/ceo Michael Eisner [who later relinquished the Disney chair in the wake of shareholder pressure] expressed his frustrations with Ovitz at board meetings, testified Poitier.

The actor said Eisner may have begun venting his frustration about Ovitz as early as three or four months after the latter joined Disney in 1995.

By the end of 1996, the relationship had soured to such an extent that transferring Ovitz to another position within the company for the remainder of his five-year contract wouldn't work, Poitier opined.

However, when questioned, Poitier said he could not recall whether Disney's board ever discussed alternatives to firing its pesky prez.

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