updated 4/16/2004 8:12:09 AM ET 2004-04-16T12:12:09

A slightly greater number of votes were withheld from the re-election of Walt Disney Co. chief executive Michael Eisner and several other board members than previously reported, two dissident ex-board members said Thursday.

Preliminary results released by the company's official inspector of elections show that 45.3 percent of the votes cast were withheld from Eisner's re-election to the board, instead of the 43 percent previously announced by the company, ex-board members Stanley Gold and Roy E. Disney said.

The results, released by IVS Associates Inc., also show that 25.6 percent of votes cast withheld support from former Sen. George Mitchell, instead of the 24 percent reported previously at Disney's March 3 board meeting in Philadelphia.

A number of large state pension funds withheld their voters from Eisner and other board members for a variety of reasons, including a desire to split the roles of chairman and chief executive.

The votes announced March 3 were cast before the meeting. The latest numbers included votes cast at the meeting, which was attended by about 3,000 shareholders.

After the meeting, Disney's board divided the roles of chairman and CEO, naming Mitchell chairman and leaving Eisner as CEO.

Gold and Roy Disney also said Thursday they expect the company to soon release the voting results from employees who have Disney retirement plans.

The dissidents had sued the company to release those results, saying they believe the vote will show that the company's own employees have lost confidence in Disney's senior management.

The two ex-board members Thursday also reiterated previous calls for Eisner to step down.

"The company's shareholders have told the board they have no confidence in Mr. Eisner," Gold and Roy Disney said in a statement.

The company said shareholders are more interested in performance and repeated earlier estimates of 40 percent earnings growth this year, with double digit growth through 2007.

"The bottom line message from shareholders this year was that performance is paramount, and Disney board members and management are, and have been, focused on the long term financial performance of the company and on a continuing commitment to world-class governance," the company said in a statement.

Preliminary totals from IVS also showed that the withhold vote for board member John Bryson was 23.9 percent instead of the 22.3 percent reported at the shareholders meeting.

The withhold vote for board member Judith Estrin was 24.3 percent instead of the 22.5 percent reported last month.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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