Iger Payday Outlined; Eisner Exits Board


According to SEC documents filed Thursday, new Disney CEO Robert Iger will make $2 million a year under a contract extending to 2010, but a lot more if the company does well under his watch.

In addition to his base pay, his package includes an annual bonus targetted at $7.25 million, another "long-term incentive" bonus targeted at $8 million a year, and the equivalent of 500,000 shares of stock, all based on company performance.

He could get no money, beyond his base salary, if the company tanks, but even more if it soars.

In the same filing, the company revealed that embattled former president Michael Eisner had severed all ties to the company Sept. 1. Iger had replaced him atop the company Oct. 1, but he had been expected to remain on the board, and had said as much.

Eisner said in a letter to the board last March when Iger was tapped that he would remain a member of the board until 2006, but not ask to be renominated.
"I'm ready to move on and climb new mountains, while always being available to help Disney in any way I can," said Eisner in the letter. "Beginning October 1, I expect to clean off my hiking boots, re-stock my Mickey Mouse backpack and start surveying some of the other peaks that are on the horizon."

A few lines at the end of an SEC filing marked the end of a stormy marriage for Eisner and Disney that followed an extended honeymoon.

Back when he started at the company  in 1984, Eisner turned it into a money machine that founder Walt Disney would have marveled at, but eventually he became the victim of ever-rising shareholder expectations.
Disney had become so much the Mouse House That Eisner Rebuilt that, when its flaws became magnified by bad decisions and worse luck, the blame accrued where the credit had always been deposited.

When future performance didn't quite meet past results, the blood was in the water, roiled by a very public dispute with former execs Roy Disney and Stanley Gold over the company's direction.

In 1984, if you asked Disney executives how they would treat their CEO in two decades if the company—then worth about $2 billion—were worth almost $60 billion, we'll wager they would have handed him the keys to the Magic Kingdom in perpetuity.

But this was the real world. For all its massive worth, the Mouse House became a house divided, thanks to giant missteps. Bringing in super-agent Michael Ovitz as president, then firing him a year later—with a $140 million parachute—for one. Then Go.com bled money. Most of all, those in the TV business still shudder at the "Who Wants To Over-saturate a Millionaire" programming strategy that ABC is only now recovering from with shows like Desperate Housewives and Lost.

Iger started with ABC in 1974 as a studio supervisor. He worked in sports and moved up in the network entertainment ranks before being named ABC TV president in 1993.

He joined Disney in 1996 when it bought Capital Cities/ABC, where Iger was  president and COO. —John Higgins contributed to this report.