THE '80s A Special Report :...

In the five years since 47-year-old Michael Eisner was brought in as chairman and CEO to pick up the pieces of a company decimated by a hostile takeover attempt, he's transformed the Walt Disney Co. into a recreation powerhouse more far-reaching than even Walt had envisioned.

Though grounded in the classics, Eisner has made his living with his gut . . . said to be one of the most commercial in the business. In the mid-'70s, he led ABC-TV to the top of the prime-time charts and later, as president of Paramount Picture's film division under CEO Barry Diller, presided over the studio's Golden Years.

Possessed of a child-like enthusiasm, Eisner generates an endless stream of ideas that Team Disney is called on to implement. Disney's feature film division (under the leadership of Eisner protege Jeffrey Katzenberg) has climbed from the basement to No. 1 last year. The theme park division (sparked by new attractions such as "Captain EO" and "Star Tours") has increased its revenues 250%. With corporate profits multiplying seven-fold, Disney stock--valued at $2 billion in 1984--is now worth an estimated $16 billion.

For his efforts, Eisner--after exercising three years of stock options--walked away with nearly $41 million in 1988.

The Taste Makers project was edited by David Fox, assistant Sunday Calendar editor.

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