Monday, December 01, 2003

What about Eisner? What About the Mouse? What About the Duck?

Walt Disney Co. Vice Chairman Roy E. Disney has resigned from the media company's board, reportedly calling on Michael Eisner, chief executive and chairman, to also step down.

Disney, 73, the nephew of company co-founder Walt Disney, has been increasingly critical of Eisner's leadership and has called for Eisner's resignation before, a move the board rejected.

Disney is the last family member to be active in the company. He previously resigned from the board in 1984 to launch a stock battle for the company, which was then headed by Ron Miller, Walt Disney's son-in-law. Disney and Stanley Gold, who runs Disney's investments from a company called Shamrock Holdings, were instrumental in preventing a hostile takeover and installing Eisner and Frank Wells to run the business. Gold remains on Disney's board. Wells died in a 1994.
A move he is no doubt regretting at this juncture.

Eisner is credited with building the company from a minor maker of mediocre movies and proprietor of two theme parks in 1984 into a media conglomerate that includes five theme parks around the world, the ABC Television network, the ESPN sports cable channel and one of the highest-grossing movie studios. He has been severely criticized for a series of blunders since 1994, which include the paying of a multi-million dollar severance to Michael Ovitz after serving less than two years as Disney president; the clumsy firing of former studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and the severe decline in ABC's ratings.
I don't know anything about the fate of Eisner or the Mouse, but let me tell you something about the Duck. Disney will no longer allow the University of Oregon to use Donald as its Mascot. As soon as the costume wears out, the Donald is gone. The University has trotted out new mascot designs both last year and this season -but so far, the Ducks aren't buying. It's sad. My daughter (a current Duck) is, shall we say, very displeased. However, she will likely graduate under Donald.


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