Hot SeatShareholders will weigh Eisner's future 2/29/2004 07:00:00 PM Eastern
The odd thing about Disney annual meetings is that many shareholders bring their children. And the kiddies beseech Disney executives to autograph their annual reports. General Motors, this isn't.
Fast forward to this week's annual meeting in Philadelphia, which promises to be a lot less user-friendly. Dissident shareholder Roy Disney has gained tremendous traction in his board reelection campaign, getting big shareholders to withhold votes from CEO Michael Eisner. Those owning 30% of Disney's stock appear to be standing firm with Roy Disney, including seven major pension funds.
The ploy is psychological. His campaign carries little legal weight, but a huge no-confidence vote could make Eisner's position as CEO shaky.
The extreme scenario, Disney's board could oust Eisner. A more moderate option would be to split the chairman and CEO jobs, creating a clear line of succession for Eisner-and a likely exit date. That's the face-saving formula.
But don't expect sparks from Comcast, which would love to exploit a shareholder revolt. Disney scheduled the meeting in the cable operator's hometown of Philadelphia long ago, well before Comcast launched its hostile $66 billion takeover.
Not that CEO Brian Roberts and cable division President Steve Burke will be around to watch. They'll be at a company management retreat in Arizona, while Eisner gets blasted in the City of Brotherly Love.