Bob Iger is new CEO

Sunday, March 13, 2005 3:12 PM
Disney announced today that Bob Iger will replace Eisner as the new CEO for Disney. They also said Eisner will step down on Sept. 30th of this year, a year earlier than he had previously announced. I personally don't have much confidence in Bob, but I guess he deserves a chance...

Here is the news report on ABC news.

If you go to SaveDisney, they have a lot more links and stories. *** Edited 3/14/2005 12:37:28 AM UTC by Gamfan***

Sunday, March 13, 2005 10:58 PM
I have to admit that Iger was not my first choice for a new Disney CEO but I think that he will bring some good things to the table. The fact that he is finally having some success in turning ABC around is encouraging.

But the main thing? Eisner is gone, a year earlier than expected. That alone is reason to rejoice. Don't let the door hit you in the a** on your way out, Mikey!

Sunday, March 13, 2005 11:04 PM
I just hope Bob sees this as his time to prove himself and step away from Eisner's way of doing business, and I hope that he fixes the relationship between Disney and Pixar.
Monday, March 14, 2005 9:02 AM
I know everyone likes to think they know how to run this company, but take a look at the company's performance vs. the S&P 500. Over the past five years (when everyone has said that Eisner has blown it) it has roughly tracked the index. Over the past 20 (since Eisner came on board) it's blown the index away.

The fact is, the stockholders generally have been happy, despite last year's near-coup, and like it or not, their opinion is the only one that matters.

On top of that, Eisner survived the near-coup with flying colors. Roy and Stanley are just about irrelevant. Eisner gets to go out during what might be the highest-profile moment for the theme park side of the business (DL's 50th), and leaves while Pixar has still contributed significant cash to the studio-side's bottom line. ABC has revived itself. And, his personal, hand-picked successor is the one taking the reins despite all the protests to the contrary.

Eisner simply outmaneuvered the Gold/Disney pair. One year early? Sure, but it is still on his terms, and at the top of his game.

Monday, March 14, 2005 9:17 AM
I don't claim to know how to run Disney... if I knew how to run the company, I would have pushed stronger to get myself an interview with the board. But I don't think that Eisner is a good CEO and I don't think that he was going to be good for Disney in the long run.

At some point during the past few years, Eisner has shifted from long-term vision to short-term profits. Look at the recent lackluster theme parks and the flood of direct-to-DVD movie releases and it's not hard to see that Eisner cares more about making a quick buck now rather than sacraficing some profit today for sustained profit tomorrow. And why wouldn't he want things to be that way? In the wake of declining profits from poor post-9/11 tourism and weak movie and feature animation releases, Eisner has needed to do everything he can to make an instant profit and save his a** for another fiscal year. Sure that means that the company has tracked the index for the past five years and kept the stockholders happy but what's going to happen when there the company has to start thinking long-term again?

Eisner has left Disney in a very vulnerable position- hence the attempted takeover by Comcast last year. The future looks very dim for Disney's future with both Miramax and Pixar- two companies that have greatly contributed to Disney's recent bottom line. Feature animation- a core Disney product and something that has proven to be immensely profitable- is pretty much dead and buried. And the Disney theme parks have suffered in quality and it is going to take more than a few new attractions to get them back into shape- too bad since they are extremely profitable for the company.

Whatever happens, Eisner won't be there to take the fall.

I don't think that Eisner survived the Disney/Gold assault well at all. Before the "Save Disney" campaign, there was no reason for Eisner to really question his future with the company- if he decided to seek another term as CEO, I think he would have been given one, no questions asked. But after Disney and Gold started in on him and caused the shareholder revolt last March, he not only lost his title as Chairman but also lost the chance to continue with Disney past his current contract.

The guy is talking about making a bid to become a councelor at his childhood camp in Maine. Maybe he's looking for a drastic change of pace but I also think he knows that no company in their right mind will ever give him a CEO position.

Monday, March 14, 2005 9:48 AM
I hear you, Rob. But blaming Eisner for short-term thinking is like blaming my yard for all the snow on it. The CEO and board are beholden only to the shareholders. Such a large fraction of shareholders care only about quarter-to-quarter results that it would be near impossible *not* to focus on short-term gains, and Disney is far from the only company doing this. The fact that near-term shareholders have different interests than do theme park enthusiasts (or animation enthusaists, or...) is not really Eisner's fault.

edit: just look at today's CF analysis in the news section for an example of short-term pressure. And that's for an income stock, rather than a growth stock! *** Edited 3/14/2005 2:50:17 PM UTC by Brian Noble***

Monday, March 14, 2005 10:19 AM
"Good CEO" means "person that maintains or increases shareholder value" to me. Eisner did that as an indisputable fact.

Has the Disney brand been bastardized a bit? I don't know. In the eyes of the hardcore fans, yeah, probably. Evolving the animation division is something Disney leadership dropped the ball on while Pixar and Dreamworks didn't.

You might be able to argue that the new theme parks opened half-assed, and I might be inclined to agree with you. The problem is that they opened small with small attraction lineups. I think that was probably financially prudent, but the net effect was that these parks didn't open with the kind of impact that Epcot did. I think it's safe to say that Animal Kingdom and DCA are well on their way to being meaningful contributors in the Disney family.

But has the "classic" brand been diluted? Mickey and such? I would say not at all. It's still one of the most recognized in the world, and I suspect that's why they're so hot on Asia right now.

Monday, March 14, 2005 10:32 AM
I think the Disney brand has been recognized in Asia for years, if not decades. If anything, I think that Disney wasted too much time before making a commitment to places like Hong Kong and Korea.

The point I'm trying to make is that you can look at Eisner in one of two ways. If you look at how Disney has grown since he took over in 1984, there is no question whether or not Eisner has been good for Disney. If it weren't for him, there'd probably be no Disney today. And for that, every Disney fan is in debt to him in some way. But if you look at the past few years of Eisner's leadership, you'll see that there was not the protection of shareholder value like there was in the early years. And only so much of that can be blamed on poor post-9/11 tourism.

Eisner has pretty much alienated himself from everyone in Hollywood. No one wants to work with the guy- do you think that Steve Jobs doesn't want to work with Disney? Hell no... Steve Jobs doesn't want to work with Eisner. And when a CEO manages to turn almost everyone against him, that is not an example of protecting shareholder value because sooner or later that alienation is going to cause Disney to get left behind. Protecting Disney's profits from Pixar films through 2006 sure looks good now but what's going to happen after 2006 when there are NO profits from Pixar? Cutting money from the animation division makes for a good business case today but what happens tomorrow when there are no more Little Mermaids, Beauty and the Beasts, Aladdins and Lion Kings to make hundreds of millions of dollars before the DVDs are pressed?

Disney is still one of the most recognized brands in the world and I think that makes it an easy target for criticism. The quality blemishes that other companies can get away with are absolutely horrifying to many on a Disney product.

*** Edited 3/14/2005 3:33:22 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

Monday, March 14, 2005 12:40 PM
Your point about Eisner's charred bridges is a fair one. However, I think blaming the Pixar/Disney problems only on how Jobs and Eisner (two raging egomaniacs) get along might be too simplistic.

In the current arrangement, Disney is practically raping Pixar. They get 1/2 the gross box office, plus exclusive rights to the characters in perpetuity for sequels, in-park development, etc. in exchange for marketing muscle and distribution expertise. Pixar does all the heavy creative lifting and gets 1/2 of the current take and none of the future revenue.

Pixar is the undisputed current king of animated films. It stands to reason that they'd like a little something in return for having an unprecedented string of batting 1.000 on blockbusters. From what I've read, Pixar wants the sun and the moon from any future distribution partner, and it isn't clear that any such new arrangement would actually be of benefit to Disney. In particular, Pixar wants to regain some measure of control of existing characters from Disney. I suspect that no matter who the CEO is, that will happen over Mickey's cold dead rodent carcass.

It may also be too soon to count Disney animation out. They've been through this before, in the pre-lion-king days. The advent of Bluth's studio got them in gear. If Pixar becomse "them" rather than "us", perhaps the same thing will happen, if there is still enough talent in the wings.

Monday, March 14, 2005 1:21 PM
I'm sure that the problem between Disney and Pixar is just as much the result of Jobs' ego, which I understand is pretty hefty as well. There is likely a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to that issue.

I agree that Disney really takes Pixar to the cleaners each time a new movie is released but from what I read, the "new" agreement that Jobs wanted to draft would have not only turned the tables completely around but would have also impacted Disney's profit on films released under the current agreement. Jobs obviously feels that Pixar deserves more than they get and I couldn't agree more. But I'm sure he also understands that Disney's marketing muscle is a big reason why Pixar has been batting 1.000 and that another deal with them would surely help to continue that.

It seems that Jobs purposely proposed a deal that Eisner would have to refuse, either to make himself look good, Eisner look bad, or both. It also seems that Jobs has purposely put off starting negotiations with other distributors because he was waiting to see what would happen with Eisner. Perhaps Jobs will be more willing to cut a reasonable deal with a new Disney CEO?

I hope that Disney feature animation rebounds because I think it would be sad to think that Home on the Range was the last traditional hand-drawn feature. Movies like the Lion King and Beauty and the Beast proved that hand-drawn animation can still be wildly popular and wildly profitable- the decline of feature animation has nothing to do with the advent of computer-generated animation and everything to do with the major talent in that department being forced from the company.

Monday, March 14, 2005 1:50 PM
On that last point, I agree with you completely. The Pixar movies aren't good because they are dazzling CGI. They are good because they are good stories. Emperor's New Groove didn't suck because the animation was bad. It sucked because the story sucked. It was so bad that after my wife and I had recorded it on our DVR, we watched about 15 minutes of it, turned it off, and deleted the movie.
Monday, March 14, 2005 1:56 PM
Someone once wrote in an article that Pixar makes better Disney movies than Disney does and I agree. Pixar films aren't good because of the animation (although it really is second-to-none), they are good because they have great stories and are extremely well executed from a creative standpoint.

I've watched many of the post-Lion King movies and while some are quite good, none of them measure up to anything Pixar has done. I can't remember being as excited about a DVD release as I am about The Incredibles coming out tomorrow!


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