News Articles

Disney's New Conflict (of Interest)

2/13/2005 07:00:00 PM Eastern

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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