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Disney taps ex-P&G executive as chairman

Walt Disney Co on Wednesday said it had chosen former Procter & Gamble Chairman and Chief Executive John Pepper to serve as its nonexecutive chairman, beginning Jan. 1, 2007.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former Procter & Gamble Chairman and Chief Executive John E. Pepper Jr. will become non-executive chairman of The Walt Disney Co. in January, succeeding former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, the entertainment company said Wednesday.

Pepper, 67, was named to the Disney board last December at the same time Mitchell, 72, was asked to remain as chairman until a successor could be found. Mitchell had planned to retire last year.

The announcement ends speculation that Disney’s newest board member, Apple Computer Inc. CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs, would succeed Mitchell.

Jobs is Disney’s largest shareholder. He joined the board earlier this year after Disney bought Pixar Animation Studios, which Jobs headed.

Mitchell became non-executive chairman in March, 2004, after Disney’s board stripped CEO Michael Eisner of his chairmanship.

Eisner had held both titles for more than 20 years but was rebuked by shareholders in 2004 after a revolt led by former board members Roy E. Disney and Stanley Gold.

The company also adopted new corporate governance rules separating the offices of chairman and CEO.

Mitchell led the company through several difficult years, including Eisner’s retirement. The board hired Disney President Robert Iger to become the company’s sixth CEO.

Pepper has extensive experience leading Procter & Gamble and expanding its overseas markets, including China.

“Since joining the Disney board, John has quickly immersed himself in our business and shared his broad and deep expertise in corporate management, global brand building and leadership development,” Iger said in a prepared statement.

Pepper was unavailable for comment, Disney said.

Pepper was named chairman and chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble in 1995 and retired from the company in 2002, after 38 years of service. In 2004, he became vice president for finance and administration at Yale University. He left Yale earlier this year.

Pepper now serves as CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. He also is a director of Boston Scientific Corp.