Mark R. Madler
If not the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney Co.'s headquarters is
at least a lot less acrimonious these days.
The company and two of its most vocal critics, Roy E. Disney,
nephew of company founder Walt Disney, and Stanley Gold, announced
Friday that they were setting aside differences about the direction
of the entertainment giant.
Disney and Gold agreed to drop a lawsuit challenging the selection
of Robert Iger as the incoming chief executive officer to replace
Michael Eisner while the company named Disney as director emeritus
In a joint statement released Friday, Disney and Gold expressed
confidence in Iger’s leadership when he takes the company’s reigns in
September and acknowledged Eisner’s contributions to the company
No additional comment will be made, said Clifford Miller, a
managing director of Shamrock Holdings, the investment company for
Roy Disney, where Gold is a president and chief executive.
Independent Disney historian Jim Hill called the timing of the
announcement choreographed, with consideration to the 50th
anniversary of Disneyland, taking place Sunday, and Roy Disney’s
absence to participate in the Transpacific, a boat race to Honolulu,
which causes him to be unable to be contacted by the media. The pair
resigned from the Disney board in November 2003 and have since led a
high-profile campaign questioning the business practices of Eisner
and the board. Their SaveDisney.com website became a clearinghouse of
information for their supporters among Disney shareholders.
In February 2005, Roy Disney and Gold were ready to run an
alternative slate of Disney board candidates at the company’s annual
stockholders’ meeting but held off, taking the board’s word that it
would conduct a comprehensive search for a new chief executive,
according to their lawsuit.
Their challenge to company leadership took a downturn at the March
2004 shareholders meeting when 43% withheld their votes for Eisner to
continue on the Disney board, said Hill, the webmaster of a site on
“They didn’t have a plan in place if Eisner chose to ignore the
vote,” Hill said. “They lost momentum and never recovered.”
One month after the shareholders’ meeting, Iger was announced as
Eisner’s replacement, a move that Roy Disney and Gold contend was a
foregone conclusion because no external candidates were considered,
and company resources were used to promote Iger’s candidacy, the suit
As part of their deal with the Disney Co. last week, the pair have
agreed not to run an alternate slate of candidates for the Disney
Board or submit shareholder resolutions for five years, the statement
Tying up loose ends prior to Iger replacing Eisner have been
behind Friday’s move, said Dennis McAlpine, a media analyst.
“They want to get [the lawsuit] resolved. They want to get Pixar
resolved,” McAlpine said, referring to negotiations between Disney
and Pixar Animation Studios to continue making films together. “They
seem to be working through things. Is it all Eisner or all Iger? I
don’t know. It’s probably a combination of both.”
The move does make Iger look successful in that he brought peace
to a situation that had been acrimonious, said Gigi Johnson,
executive director of the entertainment and media management
institute at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.