Eisner Says Lawsuit Won't Affect Other Disney Plans

Times Staff Writer

Walt Disney Productions, which lost its partners on a giant Florida hotel complex this week in a bitter dispute, told shareholders Thursday that four other projects at Walt Disney World near Orlando will not be hurt by the spat.

Michael D. Eisner, chairman and chief executive of the Burbank-based company, told the annual meeting here that a $300-million studio tour attraction will be built as scheduled, in addition to a 444-unit apartment complex for employees and a 900-room luxury hotel.

In addition, Eisner disclosed plans to build about 800 moderately priced guest rooms in so-called Wilderness Inns. It would be the first moderately priced hotel offered at Disney World, which typically charges $130 to $160 daily for rooms at its Contemporary or Polynesian hotels.

Separately, shareholders approved changing the firm's name to Walt Disney Co.

Disney was sued Tuesday for more than $1 billion by Tishman Realty & Construction and 14 other firms associated with a 2,250-room convention hotel complex announced last April and hailed as the largest project of its kind on the East Coast.

New York-based Tishman, which oversaw construction of Disney's $1.2-billion Epcot theme park, said the group pulled out of the hotel project because Disney allegedly violated an agreement not to offer special privileges to another hotel operator.

According to the lawsuit filed in a state court in Orlando, the Tishman group confronted Disney last spring before signing the agreement about reports that Disney might seek a far-ranging deal with Marriott Corp. At that time, the lawsuit said, Disney promised to abide by an agreement that would, among other things, bar any other hotel operator from operating a convention hotel inside the park for 10 years after the opening of the group's Sheraton hotel.

According to the lawsuit, the Tishman group learned in September and October that Disney was considering turning over the management of its hotels to Marriott and granting it the right to operate the central reservation system.

Tishman also contends that Disney considered a joint venture with Marriott to build moderate-priced hotels with between 10,000 to 20,000 rooms over a period of time.

Eisner declined to make a specific response to the lawsuit Thursday. However, he said: "We think it is a completely unjustified (lawsuit) and we will defend (ourselves against) it as vigorously as we can."

In a brief interview, Eisner said the company may sell a stake in Epcot, its largest theme park, by the summer. The company has been considering ways to raise funds for its ambitious development of its surrounding Florida holdings. The Disney chairman said the company has narrowed the plans to two or three proposals.

"We have one plan that we favor," Eisner said. "But we haven't put it together yet, (so) that we're sure we can do it, or will do it."

More than 94% of Disney's voting shareholders agreed to change the name of the corporation to Walt Disney Co., to reflect its diversification since Disney's incorporation in 1938 as a motion picture firm.

The meeting was held for the first time in Boca Raton, where Disney's Arvida land development company has its headquarters. It drew more than 1,000 shareholders to the posh Boca Raton Hotel & Club, which was sold by Arvida several years ago for $100 million. Arvida continues to manage the resort through a company in which it holds a one-third stake.

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