A Disney Truce Emerges
Momentarily, it is again “the happiest place on earth”:
Walt Disney Co.’s incoming chief executive and its leading rebel shareholder declared a truce Friday, the most dramatic sign yet that the new boss is committed to sweeping aside the ill will that festered under outgoing CEO Michael Eisner.
The agreement between Robert A. Iger, the new chief, and Roy E. Disney brings to a close one of the nastiest executive-suite dogfights in recent corporate history, one that led last year to Eisner being stripped of his chairmanship.
Disney and longtime lieutenant Stanley P. Gold, both ex-directors, agreed to drop a lawsuit alleging that the selection process leading to Iger’s promotion was “a sham.” In return, Roy Disney will be given the honorary title of director emeritus, a post that carries no voting power or rights to attend board meetings.
Regarded by many Disney loyalists as the caretaker of his uncle Walt’s legacy, Roy Disney also will be given a consulting contract and an office on the company’s Burbank lot.
The entertainment giant took note of Roy Disney’s “longtime devotion” to the company. Gold and Disney, for their part, expressed confidence in Iger’s leadership and gave a nod to Eisner’s contributions to the company.
The pact came on the heels of Iger’s dismantling of Disney’s powerful strategic planning department, widely viewed by upper management as Eisner’s tool to exert control over virtually every aspect of the Disney empire. Iger, who was named CEO-elect in March after serving as Eisner’s second-in-command, was applauded inside the company for acting swiftly to resolve a situation that was hurting executive morale.
Although he does not formally take the reins until Oct. 1, Iger is silencing critics who said he lacked the backbone to steer a new direction for a company over which Eisner had cast an imposing shadow. During his 21-year tenure, Eisner was lauded for his creative decisions but criticized for letting personal feuds interfere with the operation of the company.
As part of his drive to set a new tone for Disney, Iger already is making overtures to Pixar Animation Studios Chairman Steve Jobs, whose strained relationship with Eisner contributed to a breakdown in talks to keep alive the lucrative partnership behind such computer-animated hits as “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story.”
Interesting. Of course, while the strategic planning department was the predominant issue among many investors, the Pixar agreement was the predominant issue among many fans. On that score, Disney still has some ways to go.