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Disney elects Pepper and Smith as independent directors

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MUMBAI: The Walt Disney Company board of directors has elected Procter & Gamble former chairman and CEO John E. Pepper Jr. and Starbucks Corp former president and CEO Orin C. Smith as two new independent directors, effective 1 January, 2006.

With the election of Pepper and Smith, 11 of 13 directors on Disney's Board will be independent.With them joining in January, the full Board of 13 members will now have an appropriate amount of time to work closely together and carefully deliberate in the selection of Disney's next chairman.

The Board also unanimously requested that Senator Mitchell remain a director, and continue as chairman, through December 2006 to facilitate an orderly chairman succession process. Senator Mitchell had planned to retire following Disney's 2006 Annual Meeting, but agreed to the Board's request that he stand for re-election at the 2006 Annual Meeting.

"By growing, cultivating and protecting some of the best known brands worldwide at Procter & Gamble and Starbucks, John and Orin bring invaluable global perspectives as well as proven commitments to social responsibility. Disney shareholders will benefit from their decades of world-class leadership, finance and high profile consumer brand experience," said Disney chairman Senator George J Mitchell.

The Disney Board also declared an annual cash dividend of $0.27 per share, a 12.5 per cent increase from last year's dividend, payable on 6 January, 2006 to shareholders of record at the close of business 12 December, 2005.

"With our strong balance sheet and third straight year of double-digit earnings growth, Disney is in a good position to continue returning capital to shareholders even as we invest for future growth. In addition to this increased dividend, since August 2004, we have invested over $3.9 billion to purchase approximately 154 million shares of Disney stock, which further demonstrates our confidence in growing shareholder value over time," said The Walt Disney Company president and CEO Robert A. Iger.

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