Television

Eisner out as Disney chairman, retains CEO title

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MUMBAI: The Walt Disney company is in the news yet again. While last month it was in the limelight because of the unsolicited bid made by Comcast, this time round it is for different reasons altogether.

The company's CEO and chairman Michael Eisner has been removed from the post of chairman at the company's annual meeting which took place on 3 March. However Eisner retains his position as chief executive of the company. The board also unanimously elected former US senator George Mitchell as chairman.

The decision came after 43 per cent of shareholders withheld their votes from Eisner, who has been blamed by some for the lackluster performance of the media-entertainment powerhouse in recent years.

According to a media report, the vote sent shock waves through corporate America and marked the strongest such protest against an incumbent chief executive ever, signaling Disney's concession was unlikely to satisfy shareholders campaigning for Eisner's removal. Disney's board said that while it recognised that some shareholders were calling for Eisner's ouster, it was confident that the entertainment conglomerate's financial results would validate its support of management and current strategy.

The Disney board was quoted in media reports saying that, "While making this change in governance, the board remains unanimous in its support of the company's management team and of Michael Eisner, who will continue to serve as chief executive officer."

One media report said that in the meeting, the board also said that Comcast's takeover proposal was not in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. It also said it that it was open to looking at a "reasonable proposal."

However it is believed that this speedy move probably won't please Roy Disney and his supporters. The problem, according to Disney and fellow axed board member Stanley Gold, is that the current board was hand-picked by Eisner with the not-too-surprising result that they tended to rubber stamp his decisions. Hence an independent chairman was sought from outside.

Taking advantage of this sudden move and decision, Comcast had another go at bidding for the company which was however dismissed. So it looks like Disney is going to be in the news for a while now.

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