Disney power struggle flares

  • Business
  • Wednesday, 03 Dec 2003

LOS ANGELES: A simmering feud for control of Walt Disney Co has boiled to the surface with two prominent directors, including Roy Disney, quitting the board to fight for the ouster of chairman Michael Eisner, a move other directors have described as a “destructive course”. 

Roy Disney, the 73-year-old nephew of cartoon pioneer Walt Disney, resigned from the board on Sunday, and his long-time ally Stanley Gold followed suit on Monday. 

In doing so, they also vowed to work with shareholders to pressure the board into removing Eisner for poor performance in the past seven or so years. 

Roy Disney

Gold later said in a telephone interview that it was too early to say whether he and Roy Disney would nominate members to the board, or to name a potential new chief executive, although Gold said he wanted an entertainment industry executive to replace Eisner, perhaps from within Disney. 

The move by Roy Disney, the last Disney family member to serve as a director, is reminiscent of his decision nearly 20 years ago to resign and then launch a management shake-up in which he and Gold recruited Eisner. 

Roy Disney’s spokesman said he would not go away easily this time, either. “He is not going quietly into the night at all,” the spokesman said. “He feels that this has freed his voice.” 

The relationship between Eisner and Roy Disney has foundered in recent years as the owner of a movie studio, theme parks and the ABC television network struggled to maintain earnings amid the weak US economy. 

Roy Disney, facing an ouster from the board due to his age, resigned on Sunday and, in a three-page letter to Eisner, called on him to do the same. He cited, among other things, Eisner's “consistent micro-management of everyone around you with the resulting loss of morale throughout this company”. – Reuters  

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