Michael Eisner

Michael Eisner

Eisner in October 2010
Born Michael Dammann Eisner
March 7, 1942 (1942-03-07) (age 69)
Mount Kisco, New York, U.S.
Occupation Entertainment executive
Years active 1966–present
Spouse Jane Breckenridge (m. 1967–present) «start: (1967)»"Marriage: Jane Breckenridge to Michael Eisner" Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Eisner)

Michael Dammann Eisner[1] (born March 7, 1942) is an American businessman. He was the chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company from 1984 until 2005.

Contents

Early life

Eisner was born in Mount Kisco, New York, the son of Margaret (née Dammann) and Lester Eisner, Jr.[1] His great-grandfather,[2] Sigmund Eisner, was one of the first uniform suppliers to the Boy Scouts of America. He was raised on Park Avenue in Manhattan. He attended the Allen-Stevenson School kindergarten through ninth grade followed by The Lawrenceville School in tenth through his senior year and graduated from Denison University in 1964 with a B.A. in English. He is a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity and credits much of his accomplishments to his time at Keewaydin Canoe Camp for boys in Vermont.

ABC and Paramount

After two brief stints at NBC and CBS, Barry Diller at ABC hired Eisner as Assistant to the National Programming Director. Eisner moved up the ranks, eventually becoming a senior vice president in charge of programming and development. In 1976, Diller, who had by then moved on to become chairman of Paramount Pictures, recruited Eisner from ABC and made him president and CEO of the movie studio. During his tenure at Paramount, the studio turned out such hit films as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, the Star Trek film franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Beverly Hills Cop, and hit TV shows such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Cheers and Family Ties.

Diller left Paramount in 1984, and, as his protege, Eisner expected to assume Diller's position as studio chief. When he was passed over for the job, though, he left to look for work elsewhere and lobbied for the position of CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

Disney

Since Walt Disney's death in 1966, The Walt Disney Company had narrowly survived takeover attempts by corporate raiders. Its shareholders Sid Bass and Roy E. Disney brought in Eisner and former Warner Brothers chief Frank Wells to replace Ron W. Miller in 1984 and strengthen the company.

During the second half of the 1980s and early 1990s, Disney revitalized. Beginning with The Little Mermaid (1989), its flagship animation studio enjoyed a series of commercial and critical successes. Disney also broadened its adult offerings in film when then Disney Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg acquired Miramax Films in 1993. Disney acquired many other media sources, including ABC and ESPN.

During the early part of the 1990s, Eisner and his partners set out to plan "The Disney Decade" which was to feature new parks around the world, existing park expansions, new films, and new media investments. While some of the proposals were completed, most were not. Those completed included the Euro Disney Resort (now Disneyland Paris), Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios), Disney's California Adventure Park, Disney-MGM Studios Paris (eventually opened in 2002 as Walt Disney Studios Park), and various film projects including a Who Framed Roger Rabbit franchise.

Wells died in a helicopter crash in 1994 (The Lion King, which went on to become the most successful hand-drawn animated picture of all time, was dedicated to his memory). When Eisner did not appoint Katzenberg to Wells' now-available post, Katzenberg resigned and formed DreamWorks SKG with partners Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Eisner then recruited his friend Michael Ovitz, one of the founders of the Creative Artists Agency, to be President, with minimal involvement from Disney's board of directors (which at the time included Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier, the CEO of Hilton Hotels Corporation Stephen Bollenbach, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, Yale dean Robert A. M. Stern, and Eisner's predecessors Raymond Watson and Card Walker). Ovitz lasted only 14 months and left Disney in December 1996 via a "no fault termination" with a severance package of $38 million in cash and 3 million stock options worth roughly $100 million at the time of Ovitz's departure. The Ovitz episode engendered a long running derivative suit, which finally concluded in June 2006, almost 10 years later. Chancellor William B. Chandler, III of the Delaware Court of Chancery, despite describing Eisner's behavior as falling "far short of what shareholders expect and demand from those entrusted with a fiduciary position..." found in favor of Eisner and the rest of the Disney board because they had not violated the letter of the law (namely, the duty of care owed by a corporation's officers and board to its shareholders).[3]

"Save Disney" campaign and Eisner's ouster

In 2003, Roy E. Disney, the son of Disney co-founder Roy O. Disney and nephew of Walt Disney, resigned from his positions as Disney vice chairman and chairman of Walt Disney Features. His reasons for resigning were micromanagement flops with the ABC television network, timidity in the theme park business, the Walt Disney Company turning into a "rapacious, soul-less" company, refusal to establish a clear succession plan, as well as a string of box-office movie flops starting in the year 2000.

On March 3, 2004, at Disney's annual shareholders' meeting, a surprising and unprecedented 43% of Disney's shareholders, predominantly rallied by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, withheld their proxies to re-elect Eisner to the board. Disney's board then gave the chairmanship position to Mitchell. However, the board did not immediately remove Eisner as chief executive.

On March 13, 2005, Eisner announced that he would step down as CEO one year before his contract expired. On September 30, Eisner resigned both as an executive and as a member of the board of directors, and, severing all formal ties with the company, he waived his contractual rights to perks such as the use of a corporate jet and an office at the company's Burbank headquarters. Eisner's replacement was his longtime assistant, Robert Iger.

Post-Disney

On October 7, 2005, Eisner hosted The Charlie Rose Show, filling in for Rose. His guests were John Travolta and his ex-boss, Barry Diller.[4] Impressed with Eisner's performance, CNBC President Mark Hoffman hired Eisner in early 2006 to host his own talk show, Conversations with Michael Eisner. The show mostly features CEOs, political leaders, artists and actors. Eisner is also an executive producer of the show.[5]

Eisner has recently[when?] invested in an Internet video distribution network named Veoh Networks.[6]

In March 2007, Eisner's investment firm, The Tornante Company, launched a studio, Vuguru, that will produce and distribute videos for the Internet, portable media devices and cell phones. "The entire concept here is 'content is king'," Eisner said in an interview. "What will drive traffic is interest in the subject matter."[7] Through these companies Eisner has acquired the rights to the internet series SamHas7Friends. The first series produced by Vuguru is Prom Queen, created by Big Fantastic (the same team behind SamHas7Friends), which launched on April 1, 2007. The second series produced by Eisner and Vuguru is The All-for-nots (theallfornots.com), created by Thom Woodley and Kathleen Grace of The Burg (theburg.tv). It premiered March 11, 2008 at SXSW.

In October 2007, Eisner, through his Tornante Company investment firm, partnered with Madison Dearborn Partners in the acquisition of Topps Company, the bubble-gum and collectibles firm. He produced a mockumentary style show about his takeover of the Topps Company, called "Back on Topps." His studio Vuguru produced it, the episodes first aired exclusively with Fox Sports, and it is sponsored by Skype. All episodes are currently available on hulu

The College of Education at California State University Northridge is named in his honor.

In 2009, Eisner used his own money to produce a claymation show called Glenn Martin, DDS.

Personal life

From his marriage to Jane Breckenridge,[1] he has three sons named Breck, Eric and Anders Eisner, and two nephews, Alex Eisner and Fraser Thomson.[8]

Further reading

Books

Awards and recognition

References

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Raymond Watson
Disney Chairman
1984–2004
Succeeded by
George J. Mitchell
Preceded by
Ron W. Miller
Disney CEO
1984–2005
Succeeded by
Robert Iger

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