msnbc.com news services
updated 2/11/2005 1:27:59 PM ET 2005-02-11T18:27:59

Walt Disney Co.’s board of directors was re-elected by a margin of 92.2 percent in a preliminary count of a shareholder vote announced at the media giant’s annual meeting Friday.

Disney did not give tallies for individual board members at the meeting, which comes a year after a shareholder revolt roiled Disney and led to Chief Executive Michael Eisner being stripped of his role as board chairman.

Disney’s annual meeting for shareholders, which is taking place in Minneapolis, contrasts greatly with last year’s confab in Philadelphia, which at times resembled a heavyweight bout with dissident ex-director Roy E. Disney taking the stage to challenge the leadership of company CEO Michael Eisner.

Since then, the company has delivered on its promise to grow earnings more than 50 percent and the stock has also seen a double-digit rise in value.

A hostile all-stock takeover bid from cable TV giant Comcast Corp., which hung over last year’s meeting, has since disappeared as Disney’s stock has outperformed that of its rival.

Eisner joked about the year gone by at a recent analyst meeting, a gathering that last year “was punctuated by a vacation postcard from [Comcast CEO] Brian Roberts,” Eisner said.

“The card was returned to sender,” he said, noting that the past year Disney has delivered “stellar performance that defied the gravity of a year ago.”

But as shareholders gather Friday in Minneapolis, they will also hear the echoes of the troubles that roiled last year’s meeting, when investors delivered a stinging vote of no confidence to Eisner, who later relinquished his role as board chairman.

In contrast to last year, most proxy consulting firms have endorsed Disney’s board and lauded the company for the corporate governance strides it has made.

Yet just in time for the meeting, a hefty new book, written with Disney’s cooperation, paints an unflattering portrait of Eisner and his heir apparent, President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Iger.

The book, “DisneyWar,” by James B. Stewart, shows Eisner unsure about the qualifications of his second-in command and Iger complaining about his lack of visibility in the company.

“No one takes me seriously,” Iger said to one executive outside of Disney, according to the book. Iger’s comment came in the midst of his effort to turn around Disney’s troubled ABC network, which was fourth in the ratings and, according to the book, Eisner’s growing impatience with that effort.

ABC has since rebounded on the strength of hits such as “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost.”

Stewart is a former reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, where he won a Pulitzer prize for his stories about insider trading. He is the author of several books, including “Den of Thieves,” which examined the Wall Street insider-trading scandals, and “Blood Sport,” which looked at the Clinton Whitewater investigation. He was given access to top Disney executives over a two-year period for this book.

“DisneyWar” is filled with stories of company intrigue and gossipy tidbits, such as a scene caused in a restaurant when Iger confronted former ABC chief Lloyd Braun. Iger soon fired Braun, then fired co-ABC head Susan Lyne after first promising that her job was safe, according to the book.

The book also retells the contentious relationships Eisner had with former studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and short-term Disney President Michael Ovitz. Many of those details were painstakingly revealed earlier last year during a shareholder lawsuit at which Eisner and Ovitz testified.

Disney has dismissed the parts of the book generating the most discussion.

“We remain focused on excellent results, performance and a bright future, not on a one-sided depiction of past events largely told through the eyes of those with a clear bias and personal agendas,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

While the book’s publication next month is sure to generate juicy stories, analysts say it will have little or no effect on the search for a new CEO.

Eisner has said he will step down when his contract expires in 2006. Disney’s board has pledged to name his successor by June.

“It won’t affect the decision-making at all,” said Paul Kim, an analyst for Tradition Asiel Securities. “I think everyone knows what they’re getting from Bob Iger. All the things they needed to do in the last year or so, they did, ensuring the likelihood that Bob Iger will be chosen.”

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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