Yesterday’s annual meeting of Disney Corp. shareholders in Philadelphia delivered what is widely being seen as a vote of “no confidence” for chief executive — and now former chairman — Michael Eisner.
Fully 43 percent of shareholders withheld their votes from Eisner, reported Reuters — far more than either his proponents or opponents had anticipated. In addition, about 24 percent of votes were withheld from former senator George Mitchell, at the time Disney’s chief independent director.
Eisner, Mitchell, and the other nine members of the board were guaranteed to retain their seats, since no rival candidates were standing for election. But former directors Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, who have been at the forefront of the investor movement, called the results “unprecedented in American corporate history,” according to Reuters.
They reiterated their demands to have Eisner removed. And Calpers — the nation’s largest public pension fund, which has proclaimed its “lack of confidence in [Disney’s] long-term strategic vision” — called the vote against Eisner “stunning.” According to the wire service, Calpers maintained that he should step down by the end of the year, and that Disney should split the roles of chairman and chief executive officer.
Late last night the board did just that, reported The New York Times. Disney’s board stripped Eisner of the chairmanship and handed it to Mitchell; Eisner will retain the CEO title. However, analysts are unsure whether this move will pacify shareholders who have questioned the independence of Disney’s board, since the two men are friends and Mitchell is a longtime Eisner supporter, added the Times.