Birth Date: March 7, 1942 / Age: 75
Birth Place: Mount Kisco, New York, USA
Biography: Michael Dammann Eisner (born March 7, 1942) has been the head of The Walt Disney Company since 1984.
Michael Eisner began his career at ABC, moving to Paramount Pictures, then to The Walt Disney Company. During his tenure at Paramount, the studio turned out such hit films as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, the Star Trek film franchise and Beverly Hills Cop, and hit TV shows such as Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Cheers and Family Ties.
At Disney, he, Frank Wells, and Jeffrey Katzenberg were brought on board by investor Sid Bass and Roy Edward Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, to turn the floundering company's fortunes around. In the next ten years the studio became one of the world's largest media companies. Under their leadership, Disney rebuilt its once legendary animation department, and the division had a "golden age" with annual box office hits with such regularity that even their creative structure started to be known as the "Disney formula." Disney also broadened its adult offerings in film with its ventures in Touchstone Pictures, and a noted acquisition of Miramax Films in 1994. This tremendous run culminated with a surprise announcement by Eisner of Disney's takeover of Capital Cities/ABC - A stunning move involving the second largest corporate takeover in history up till that point, the largest in the field of media, with no leaks to the very same media which was involved in the deal. Along with ABC (the number one network at the time), Disney acquired a slew of other media sources, including ESPN.
Eisner's role in this turnaround, and Disney's growth into one of the leading media firms, is the subject of passionate debate by many historians and Disney fans, though he is generally given the bulk of the credit for transforming Disney into a provider of entertainment. As the years went on, Eisner would gain further controversy through a rapid consolidation of authority. Wells died in a helicopter crash in 1994, ending the longstanding feud between the two men. Shortly thereafter, Eisner fired Jeffrey Katzenberg. This may have been sparked by Katzenberg's feeling that he was owed money, which resulted in him launching a lawsuit which was ultimately settled in Katzenberg's favor.
In 2003, Roy Edward Disney, also the son of co-founder Roy Oliver Disney, resigned from his positions as Disney vice chairman and chairman of Walt Disney Feature Animation, accusing Eisner of micro-management, failures with ABC, timidity in the theme park business, turning the Walt Disney Company into a "rapacious, soul-less" company, and of refusing to establish a clear succession plan. (Text of resignation letter) On March 3, 2004, at Disney's annual shareholders' meeting, a surprising and unprecedented 43% of Disney's shareholders, predominantly rallied by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, voted to oppose the reelection of Eisner as chairman and CEO. This led the board of directors to strip him of his chairmanship and give that position to George Mitchell. It also led to speculation that he will resign as CEO before his contract ends in 2006. Eisner's struggle to maintain control of the legendary entertainment company is the subject of journalist James R. Stewart's bestselling book DisneyWar.
On September 10, 2004, Eisner announced that he would resign on September 30, 2006, when his employment contract expires. However, on March 13, 2005, Disney announced that Eisner would leave a year ahead of schedule, on September 30, 2005, with Robert A. Iger taking over as CEO on October 1. Eisner, however, will receive his salary until his contract ends in 2006.
Education: B.A., Denison University, 1964. High School: The Lawrenceville School, 1960.
His sons are Breck, Eric, and Joe Eisner.