LOS ANGELES -- Roy E. Disney, the son and nephew of The Walt Disney Co. founders who twice led shareholder revolts that shook up the family business, died Wednesday.
He was 79.
The Walt Disney Co. announced that Disney died in Newport Beach,
Calif., after a bout with stomach cancer.
Although he generally stayed out of the spotlight, Roy Disney
didn't hesitate to lead a successful campaign in 1984 to oust Walt
Disney's son-in-law after concluding he was leading the company in
the wrong direction.
Nearly 20 years later, he launched another successful
shareholders revolt, this time against Michael Eisner, the man he'd
helped bring in after the previous ouster.
Disney, born in 1930, had practically grown up with the company.
His uncle Walt Disney and his father, Roy O. Disney, had co-founded
the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio seven years before, later
renaming it The Walt Disney Co.
Two years before he was born, the company gave birth to its
iconic cartoon character, Mickey Mouse.
While Walt was the company's creative genius, his brother was the one in charge of the
Starting in the 1950s, the younger Roy Disney worked for years
in the family business as an editor, screenwriter and producer. Two
short films he worked on were nominated for Academy Awards: the
1959 "Mysteries of the Deep," which he wrote, was nominated as
best live action short, and the 2003 film "Destino," which he
co-produced, was nominated as best animated short.
Despite his heritage, Roy Disney never got the chance to lead
the company as his father and uncle had.
But as an investor who
grew his Disney stock into a billion-dollar fortune, he ultimately
had a huge impact on the company's destiny.
In 1984, dissatisfied with the leadership Walt's son-in-law Ron
Miller was providing, Disney resigned from the company's board of
directors and sought investors to back a bid to install new
management. (Miller was the husband of Diane Disney Miller, Roy's
His efforts resulted in the hiring of Eisner and Frank Wells,
who led the company as a team until Wells died in 1994.
During that time, Disney rejoined the board and rose to become
the company's vice chairman and chairman of its animation division,
where he helped oversee the making of such hit films as 1994's
"The Lion King."
He also became a savvy investor over the years, forming Shamrock
Holdings with his friend and fellow Disney board member Stanley
Gold in 1978.
The fund grew to become a major investor in
California real estate, the state of Israel and other entertainment
and media companies.
In 2007, Forbes magazine ranked him as the 754th richest person
in the world and estimated his fortune at $1.3 billion.
He was not
on the list in subsequent years.
In his spare time he bought a castle in Ireland and indulged his
passion for yacht racing, setting several speed records. For years
he was a fixture at the Transpacific Yacht Race between California