How much damage can one book do? (Answer: a lot)
By Marc Gunther

(FORTUNE Magazine) – There are no heroes in DisneyWar, James B. Stewart's behind-the-scenes account of Michael Eisner's reign atop the Walt Disney Co. Eisner comes across as smart, creative, committed to excellence, impetuous, thoroughly untrustworthy, paranoid, and a horrible manager. Bob Iger, his second-in-command, is hardworking and, for the most part, decent but loyal to a fault. Michael Ovitz is greedy and ill-prepared to work at a public company. Disney's directors, including chairman George Mitchell, are ineffectual, at least until they are roused from slumber by a shareholder revolt.

None of this is uplifting, but DisneyWar is hard to put down. Although Disney's doings have been exhaustively covered, Stewart turns up plenty of new evidence of Eisner's double-dealing and Iger's complicity, particularly when it comes to the mismanagement of ABC and its cable sibling, the ABC Family Channel, for which Disney overpaid by at least $1 billion. (In typical Disney fashion, the executives who negotiated the purchase were rewarded with fat bonuses.) The surprise after reading DisneyWar is not that so many talented executives have left this dysfunctional company; it is that so many others have stayed. They are not happy campers, though. Among Disney employees with 401(k) retirement plans, 72.5% voted "no" on Eisner's reelection to the board in 2003, Stewart reports.

Iger has the most to lose from this book. In an ugly episode, he ousted Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne, the programmers who are responsible for ABC's turnaround, such as it is. Even Tom Murphy, Iger's mentor at Capital Cities/ABC, is quoted as making derogatory remarks about Iger. To be sure, Stewart, a first-rate reporter, admits in his "note on sources" that "remembered dialogue is rarely the same as actual recordings and transcripts." The Disney Co. says the book is one-sided, and some key sources have complained that they were misquoted. But after reading DisneyWar, it's hard to trust anything this company says anymore. -- Marc Gunther