Disney's New Conflict (of Interest)
By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/13/2005 7:00:00 PM
As if George Mitchell doesn't have enough corporate drama in his life, the Walt Disney Co. chairman (brought in a year ago to diffuse stockholder revolt) is getting into the dispute between Cablevision Systems and New York City.
Disney is now defending its chairman over a potential conflict of interest in the city's request that he arbitrate the value of public land sought by the New York Jets.
The Jets and Mayor Michael Bloomberg want to build a football stadium over a Manhattan railyard owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Cablevision is protesting because the site would pull concerts and other events away from the cable operator's Madison Square Garden nearby. So Cablevision is trying to trump the Jets' $100 million offer for the site by bidding $600 million, proposing to build apartment and office towers.
To sort out all the numbers, the MTA has turned to Mitchell, a lawyer and former U.S. senator who performed similar valuations for development on the publicly owned site of the World Trade Center.
Here's the snag: Mitchell's Disney is neck-deep in deals with the National Football League. Disney's ABC and ESPN are in the midst of renegotiating an $8 billion TV contract with the league, which includes—the Jets!
Disney blasted any challenge to Mitchell's possible role. Disney spokeswoman Zenia Mucha says that “the NFL deal is a television-rights deal and has absolutely no bearing on where they play.” She adds that Disney also negotiates with Cablevision for carriage of ESPN and other cable networks. Are two potential conflicts better than none?
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