Home / World Business
Wed, Feb 11, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Disney fires back at angry former board members

AP , LOS ANGELES

The Walt Disney Co took the offensive against two former board members, touting the Disney brand in full-page newspaper ads and writing to shareholders to outline the company's recent accomplishments.

Monday's moves come two days before Disney is expected to release strong first-quarter earnings and follows an aggressive campaign to oust Disney chief executive Michael Eisner waged by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold.

In a "Dear Shareholders," letter dated Friday, Disney's 13 board members outlined the "company's real turnaround" over the past year and urged shareholders not to be "misled" by claims made over the past few months by Gold and Roy Disney.

"You should be disturbed by this attack, which comes at a time when your company is achieving very positive results," the letter stated.

The letter repeats the company's expectation of earnings growth of at least 30 percent this year and adds that the board expects to add another independent director this year.

The letter also offers the company's first formal defense of Eisner's record.

"And they totally ignore the impressive performance record of Michael Eisner, who, as one of the company's largest individual shareholders, is fundamentally focused on your interests," the letter states.

The letter points out that Disney's stock rose 43 percent last year, compared to a 26 percent gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

the other side of the coin

Roy Disney and Gold have complained that Disney's stock price underperformed major indexes from 1996 to last year.

"They're trying to defend Mr. Eisner's positions in many different facets of the company leading up to the shareholder meeting," David Miller, an analyst with Sanders Morris Harris, said Monday of the company's letter.

Roy Disney and Gold replied quickly to Monday's letter, saying that if the company reaches its financial goals for this year, earnings will still be approximately on par with those achieved six years ago.

"It appears that the board continues to resist independent, thoughtful consideration of opinions raised in opposition to Michael Eisner," they said in a letter to board members.

Last week, the Disney dissident group sent a letter to company board member George Mitchell, challenging the company to release letters and presentations Gold and Roy Disney made to the board over the past two years.

"The company has questioned the accuracy of our statements without supporting its claims," according to the letter, signed by Shamrock Investments officer Michael McConnell.

"We are prepared to openly discuss all of our statements," he said.

Shamrock Investments is run by Gold primarily to manage Roy Disney's financial holdings.

This story has been viewed 2863 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top