Dissident Disney Shareholders to Withhold Vote Friday

Feb 8, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The truce between a group of dissident shareholders and The Walt Disney Co. appeared to be fraying Tuesday after two former Disney board members who last year led a revolt against CEO Michael Eisner said they would withhold their votes for all directors at this year’s annual meeting, scheduled for Friday in Minneapolis.

The decision to withhold their votes, announced in a statement released Tuesday, opens old wounds just before Disney’s annual meeting. At last year’s annual meeting in Philadelphia last March, former Disney board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold led a campaign that culminated in a stunning 45 percent no-confidence vote by shareholders against Mr. Eisner, ultimately stripped Mr. Eisner of his chairman’s title and led Disney’s board to make several corporate governance changes.

The fervor eventually died down, with Mr. Disney and Mr. Gold saying late last year that they had no plans to offer up their own slate of candidates to be elected to the board.

However, on Tuesday, the two men questioned whether enough progress has been made, saying the proof would come in how the board goes about selecting a successor to Mr. Eisner, who is scheduled to step down in 2006.

“We are waiting to see whether this board has the independence and dedication to its stockholders to conduct and open an honest search for a new leader with the vision and creativity to meet the challenges ahead,” Mr. Disney and Mr. Gold said in their statement.

Driving much of their concern is the apparent support that Disney President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Iger has among Disney’s board–and the fact that Mr. Iger is Mr. Eisner’s handpicked candidate to replace him.