Man Without Qualities

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Final Chapter In The Fall Of The House Of Eisner: The Last Of Michael

A few days ago, Walt Disney Company, as a securities "Registrant," filed a fairly routine Report of Form 8-K/A with the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing the terms of its engagement of Robert Iger as its Chief Executive Officer. At the very end of that filing, almost as an afterthought, appears this bit of Plain English:
In addition, on September 30, 2005, Michael D. Eisner tendered his resignation from the Board of Directors of the Registrant, effective immediately. Mr. Eisner's status as Chief Executive Officer of the Registrant ended at the conclusion of the Registrant's fiscal year on October 1, 2005, and he no longer provides any services for the Registrant.
And so it ended. One of the most storied - and, ultimately, troubled - relationships in the history of the American entertainment industry was done. The language conveying Mr. Eisner's termination to the SEC records was brief, sanitary, cold, final - one could almost hear the FLUSH! He was gone.

What happened? It wasn't supposed to be that way. According to Forbes:
The statement comes on the back of Michael Eisner resigning from the board of directors last Friday--surprising, since he'd been expected to stay there until next year. And although he's entitled to, the ex-CEO will apparently not serve as a consultant to the company; perhaps symbolically conveying that his influence is well and truly history.
Not only was Mr. Eisner entitled to stay as a consultant, he was expected to stay as a consultant.

Word from inside Disney is that Mr. Eisner's decision to sever all ties with the company turned on questions of office draperies and the like. Multi-billion dollar companies sometimes choose to express themselves in their dealings with their former CEO's and Chairs (and then-current director and still largest insider individual stockholder, by far) through indirect means not all that unlike the means commonly employed by grumpy spouses ... or children. It seems that negotiations between Mr. Eisner and Disney broke down as the company objected to his choice of the office he was to occupy as a consultant, to his support staff, to the cost of decorating the office - and, yes, to the draperies he wished to install. There was a row. Eventually, Mr. Eisner got the idea that the company wasn't really all that happy to have him around in any capacity, and wasn't about to make him comfortable or treat him well. Since remaining as a consultant would have subjected him to a rather burdensome "non-compete" agreement, and the company was making it rather clear through trivial, humiliating negotiation points that he wasn't welcome anyway, he decided to quit. This way, Mr. Eisner keeps his options open: He could even become the voice of a competing TV mouse.

It all ended not with a bang, but with a squeak.

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