It's been barely a week since Disney
For starters, in recent years we have seen great companies like Coca-Cola
So who will ultimately be tapped for the helm? Even before Eisner announced his retirement plans, there were a few names thrown around to potentially fill the heavily scrutinized shoes Since I can't find a Vegas bookmaker willing to dish out the odds, I'll handicap this myself.
So, place your bets. I can't imagine this being just an ordinary changing of the guard.
Bob Iger -- Odds: 2-to-1
As Eisner's choice, we might as well start with him. While Iger has been elevated to the role of president and chief operating officer, the high rank and Eisner's personal blessing can't overcome a sloppy resume. There is more air apparent in this heir apparent as ABC has gone from first to an inconceivable fourth in key demographic groups under his watch. A lot can -- and will -- happen between now and 2006. His chances may improve. His chances may deteriorate. He is clearly the front-runner as internal promotions are the conservative path, but a sure thing he is not.
Steve Jobs -- Odds 3-to-1
There are more than a few Disney purists -- I among them -- who would like to see Apple Computer's
Mel Karmazin -- Odds 5-to-1
When the mercurial COO left Viacom
Jeffrey Katzenberg -- Odds 10-to-1
As the K in the middle of Spielberg and Geffen in the DreamWorks SKG moniker, one would think that Katzenberg has it all. He is about to take DreamWorks Animation public. Shrek 2 is the country's highest grossing animated feature of all time, and the studio's pipeline is flowing. So why would he want Eisner's office? Because old flames die hard. After sparking Disney's revival in theatrical animation with the likes of The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, and The Lion King, he figured he would be a shoo-in to become Disney's next president after the tragic death of Frank Wells. When he was passed over, a battle of words broke out between Eisner and Katzenberg, and one would have to think that there is nothing that Katzenberg would love more than to take over Disney in 2006 for a chance to guide the company that he once figured would be his by birthright.
Paul Pressler -- Odds 12-to-1
He rose up the ranks quickly while at Disney. He helped grow the Disney Store concept, then earned the wrath of the theme park regulars after overseeing a series of cost-shaving moves that sacrificed long-term loyalty for short-term income statement gains while heading up the company's resort business. Yet that didn't seem to dissuade Gap
Steve Burke -- Odds 18-to-1
Lost, or at least forgotten, in the whole Comcast
Peter Chernin -- Odds 20-to-1
While he made heads turn earlier this year when the News Corp.
John Lasseter -- Odds 25-to-1
The chances of Lasseter, the genius mastermind behind Pixar's streak of box-office gold, would be much higher if Disney wasn't bent on growing its network business over its own animation prospects. And, yes, he has a long-term contract with Pixar, and if he was ever a viable candidate, it would be under terms in which Jobs and Disney were on good terms -- which would make Jobs the more likely helmsman.
Meg Whitman -- Odds 30-to-1
The question isn't so much if Whitman, who led eBay
Matt Ouimet -- Odds 40-to-1
Disney has always been cruel to the shooting star. Eisner and his micromanaging ways always seemed to trip up born leaders like Katzenberg, Burke, and Pressler to the point where they left the company given a chance to truly lead elsewhere. Now, with a lame duck CEO, it's quite possible that Iger won't be the only insider given a shot at the reins. Ouimet is doing what Pressler was doing before he moved on -- running the theme parks. Yet unlike Pressler, Ouimet is winning over the skeptics who longed for the finely manicured park grounds and innovative spirit in the ride creation process. While Disney is unlikely to elevate someone to the top with just theme park experience, with the Disneyland anniversary celebration next year looking to shine the company's spotlight on its flagship resort business, Ouimet may be a rising alternative if Iger and ABC continue to struggle.
Ten names for a spot that won't open up for more than another 700 days may seem meaningless. A lot can happen between now and then, and we may be looking at a completely different shortlist in two years. This list also isn't all-inclusive, as naturally there are more than two insiders -- and eight outsiders -- worthy of leading Disney.
Running Disney isn't easy. You have fans, special interest groups, and investors pulling at the company in different directions, and one may have to concede that it's a thankless job if you ultimately can't make everybody happy. Yet isn't that the kind of challenge -- the type that seems as if it can't be winnable -- that many of these born leaders crave? You can wear a lot of hats in corporate life, but the chance to don the mouse ears comes around once in a lifetime.
Have your own odds on who will replace Eisner at the helm? All this and more in the Disney discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz realizes that he never even got around to pitching the chances of folks like Harvey Weinstein, Mel Gibson, Bill Gates, or George Mitchell. He owns shares in Disney, Viacom, and Pixar. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors .
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