"Disney's CEO is a survivor, but now he's under attack from an heir to the kingdom. A look at the battle ahead
By DAREN FONDA
Monday, Dec. 08, 2003
Never can it be said that Disney chief Michael Eisner misses the small points. Whether it's the fixtures in his company's hotels, the dialogue in a movie script or the little snubs that add up to a feud, not much escapes him. In the case of his growing estrangement from his longtime supporter Roy Disney, the final squabble came in a conversation a week before Thanksgiving over the Magic Kingdom heir's right to attend screenings of cartoons in development. "These were big screenings with like 100 people in the room, and he didn't want me there for some convoluted reason," Disney told TIME. "I griped about it, and we had some words." Then, like one of his Uncle Walt's animated boilers, Disney exploded.
Eisner, 61, has crushed numerous revolts in his 19-year reign as chief of the Walt Disney Co., but he has never faced a rebel quite like this — an angry major shareholder who bears the company's name and a deep sense of betrayal by the chief Mouseketeer. Claiming that Eisner made his life "intolerable" at the company, Disney last week resigned from his posts as chairman of the animation division and vice chairman of the board. With his longtime ally, Stanley Gold, who also quit the board, Disney plans to mount a public fight to boot Eisner from the kingdom. The advantage is still with Eisner, a bare-knuckles survivor, but the duo promise to dog him, says Gold, "for as long as it takes."