Walt Disney Co. shareholders who sought to hold the company’s board responsible for approving a $130 million payday to former President Michael Ovitz have appealed a Delaware court’s decision that affirmed the severance package and shielded directors from liability.
In their appeal, filed Monday in Delaware, attorneys for the shareholders claim that a ruling by Delaware Chancery Court Judge William Chandler III was flawed on procedural and evidentiary grounds and should be overturned.
In August, Chandler absolved board members of personal liability for awarding the severance payout to Ovitz, who left Disney in 1996 after 14 months on the job.
Ovitz’s attorney, Michael H. Epstein, said Wednesday that the appeal presents “very weak arguments” and that shareholders were “recounting the evidence as they wish it had come in as opposed to how it actually came in.”
Epstein said Ovitz netted about $108 million, including $38 million in cash and about $70 million in stock. Plaintiffs say the value of the package of cash and options was $130 million, down from a previous estimate of $140 million.
A Disney attorney representing former Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner and other board members, could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday.
A reply brief from Ovitz and the Disney directors is due Nov. 23, and an appellate ruling could come in early 2006.