I have been thinking long and hard about what is happening to the Mouse -- and what will happen next week. Become a Complete Fool
I have very little sympathy for Eisner, but I can't help but think this all could have played out differently.
In 2002, I had a horrible experience at Soviet Disneyland -- oops, I mean Disneyland Paris. The first executive I wrote about that was Roy Disney. And he was the first executive to not answer me. Remember the Denver shareholder meeting last year? He wasn't there, even though I'm sure he had a corporate jet at his disposal. In fact, he could have come in with Eisner and Iger. (This is not me talking out of both sides of my mouth -- I've said all this in e-mails to Roy since he resigned. He knows I've been very disappointed in him, too.)
The problem is that all of these guys, including Roy, were insulated Hollywood super-egos, NONE of whom were listening to the years of complaints from cast members and shareholders about Magic deteriorating onstage. Suddenly, when the egos clashed in November, and Roy left, I think he then realized that there was a huge groundswell of unrest out there. He very effectively tapped into it. He is saying the things we've been saying for years, and I'm glad he's saying them -- but my first reaction upon reading his resignation letter was "Well, DUH!"
Roy has the strength to hurt Eisner, and he is doing it. But Disney is not served by having a wounded senior management. There is nobody else up for re-election; if 25% or 35% or 50% of the shares vote against Eisner, then we have a Chairman and CEO with a weakened mandate, with Comcast and God know who else circling for another strike. The Board will have to act -- but that's tantamount to asking the residents of the Primate House at the National Zoo to pick the next President of the United States. Disney is in dangerous times right now.
I say again -- it is hard to have any sympathy for Eisner. He helped put himself in the position he's in now. And I agree with everything that Roy Disney is saying now, because I've said it before. I said it in my own resignation letter from the Stores, way back in April. However, as much as Michael may deserve to be given his walking papers for some of his missteps and his arrogant treatment of the cast, there is a calm, orderly, process for that, which has not been allowed to happen, because the Board of Directors mistook "doing nothing" with "loyalty to Eisner" -- when in fact, they were serving him very badly. The upshot of all of this is that Michael is likely to crash and burn next week with a resounding "NO" vote. I have no particular desire to watch that happen - especially in public. For most of the past seven years, I was fiercely loyal to the guy -- he was the main reason why I bought shares and came to work for Disney. Even when I was questioning things onstage, and having discussions on Disney message boards, I drew a line at the shareholder meeting -- that was official, that was public, and I never criticized him there (even last year in Denver, when I knew that my days with Disney were numbered).
It didn't have to get to this point. If only all of senior management hadn't been so damned pigheaded. They all should have realized that onstage cast members define Magic, and are the first to know when it is in trouble. They all should have taken our concerns seriously.
I keep having this image of little Simba, suddenly helpless and alone, down in The Gorge. "Somebody -- anybody -- help." Somebody -- anybody -- throw a bucket of water on the egos, and please save Disney.
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I have been thinking long and hard about what is happening to the Mouse -- and what will happen next week.