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Curtain comes down: Eisner departs
Newspaper reports the embattled Disney CEO to leave company this week with little fanfare.
September 26, 2005: 1:37 PM EDT
Michael Eisner plans a quiet departure from Walt Disney Co. this week, according to a published report.
Michael Eisner plans a quiet departure from Walt Disney Co. this week, according to a published report.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Outgoing Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner will leave the media conglomerate this week without fanfare, according to a published report.

The New York Times reports that Eisner's 21-year career at Disney will include no grand send-off or congratulatory party. Through a spokeswoman, Eisner declined last week to discuss his career with the Times. Instead he is expected to send an e-mail message to Disney's employees before he vacates his office Friday, the paper reported.

Eisner's retirement as CEO was first announced a year ago, when he said he would be leaving when his contract expired in September 2006. But while his preferred successor, Robert Iger, will assume the CEO job Saturday, Eisner's departure from the company comes sooner than he would have chosen.

Eisner has been important to the growth of Disney, as revenue climbed to $30.75 billion in 2004, from $1.5 billion in 1984. During his tenure, Disney went from a relatively small movie studio and theme park operator to a major media conglomerate that became a component of the Dow Jones industrial average. It has opened many new theme parks, most recently in Hong Kong. Its holdings now include ABC and a slew of cable networks, led by the strongly profitable ESPN brand, which were added on his watch.

Part of the reason for low-key exit could be the controversy surrounding Eisner's last two years running the media conglomerate. He was stripped of the chairman post in March 2004 after a shareholder revolt lead by former board member Roy Disney, the nephew of the company's namesake founder.

"Whatever Michael's faults were, and we all have them, Michael took a moribund company and energized it to a level I'm not sure anyone else could have done," Richard Nanula, Disney's former chief financial officer, told the paper. "He ensured that Disney provided 10 times the level of entertainment available for children prior to him getting there - high-quality, clean, fun entertainment."

The paper reports that Disney stock gained 1,646 percent during Eisner's time. But despite recent successes for the company, Disney shares are down about 16 percent year to date, a far sharper drop than declines at competitors Viacom (Research) and Time Warner (Research), although similar to the stock decline at News Corp. (Research)

Eisner has yet to disclose his plans, according to the Times, which reports that his contract says he can remain a Disney consultant. In an interview earlier this year with Charlie Rose, the public television show host, Eisner said he hoped to remain in entertainment, perhaps producing Broadway shows or making movies, according to the report.


For a look at challenges facing Disney, click here.  Top of page

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