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Disney Board Names Iger to Succeed Eisner

Mar 13, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The Walt Disney Co. on Sunday named Robert Iger as CEO, tapping the media giant’s No. 2 executive to replace longtime chief Michael Eisner, who will step down a year earlier than he previously planned.

The company said Mr. Iger, 54, was elected unanimously by the board of directors and will assume the CEO job Oct. 1.

Mr. Eisner, meanwhile, told the board Sunday that he will also step down from the board when he retires as CEO.

Mr. Eisner, following a withering 45 percent no-confidence vote by shareholders, announced last September that he would not renew his employment contract when it expires Sept. 30, 2006. Since then, he has publicly supported Mr. Iger, a Disney executive since 1996, to succeed him.

Despite Mr. Iger’s high rank at Disney, his appointment is likely to spark controversy among shareholders who saw Mr. Eisner’s retirement as an opportunity to inject new management blood into the company.

Rumors swirled in recent weeks that the CEO candidate list lacked a number of names seen as logical choices, including News Corp. President Peter Chernin and Viacom co-President and co-Chief Operating Officer Leslie Moonves. Press reports Sunday indicated eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who interviewed with the Disney board last week, took herself out of consideration.

Until recently, Mr. Iger has taken hits for failing to revive the ratings fortunes at ABC and has been perceived as lacking the kind of management chops required to run a company with such far-flung assets.

In recent months, that perception changed as Mr. Iger took on a higher profile and as Mr. Eisner’s luster faded amid shareholder dissatisfaction. In recent weeks, though, questions once again arose regarding Mr. Iger’s management acumen following the release of a book that sometimes portrayed Mr. Iger’s leadership less than favorably.