Burbank, CA -- Sept. 28, 2004 -- Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold today issued the following statement regarding The Walt Disney Company:
Statement by Roy E. Disney & Stanley P. Gold
Last week, the Walt Disney Company's Board of Directors announced a positive agenda to help restore the trust of shareholders who only six months earlier had expressed a shocking lack of confidence in the Company's chief executive and the manner in which their Company was being managed. In announcing that it will be retaining an independent executive search firm to help select a new CEO -- and that it intends to complete the process on or before next June -- the Board displayed precisely the kind of leadership and independence which we and the vast number of shareholders who share our concerns had been requesting.
For more than two years, we have been vigorously advocating for management accountability at Disney and doing what we could to persuade the Disney Board of its primary obligation to the shareholders of the Company. In this spirit, we urged the Board to back up its statements of good corporate governance with real action that would reflect the Company's growing need for fresh strategic leadership, new ideas and a creative vision. Given the nature of the challenges Disney faces, we asked the Board to bring in independent experts to conduct a global search for a truly world-class CEO-and given the urgency of the need, we pressed it to do so immediately.
To be sure, the Board's official statement left some questions unanswered. But we are willing to take Chairman George Mitchell at his word that Mr. Eisner will step down as both CEO and a member of the Disney Board as soon as his replacement is installed. As we noted previously, we believe that no one with the necessary qualifications to lead Disney would be willing to consider this position were Mr. Eisner to remain with the Company in any capacity. Since all shareholders will be watching the Board's actions on this matter, we encourage Chairman Mitchell to communicate frequently and in some detail regarding the status of the search.
We also trust Mr. Mitchell and the Board to seriously consider the request of six Public Pension Funds that the Board add two or more independent directors with fresh perspectives to the Disney Board. As the Board prepares to select a new CEO -- undoubtedly its most important decision in the last twenty years-the addition of new independent directors will help reinforce shareholder confidence in the integrity of the search process. The press has reported that the Public Pension Funds have offered two candidates - Haim Saban and Richard Breeden. We think that each of these individuals, although not our candidates, would be excellent additions to the Board and give all shareholders a sense that the Board is listening to its owners. These individuals have unassailable credentials in the entertainment industry and in corporate governance, and it would not take long for either of them to get up to speed. Of course, these new directors will need to be appointed to the Board now (not after the CEO selection is made) if they are to play a meaningful role in the selection process. As we have stated all along, our effort was never about Roy Disney and Stanley Gold. It was about the importance of shareholder democracy and need for change at the Disney Company -specifically, the need for new strategic and creative leadership to restore the magic that made the Company great in the past and that can make it great again in the future. Our efforts could not have been successful without the support of countless shareholders, employees, and visitors to our SaveDisney.com website -- in short, without the support of the millions of people who, like us, believe the Disney Company is a very unique and special place. To George Mitchell and the Board-we are most supportive of this encouraging beginning to what we trust will be the revitalization of The Walt Disney Company - once the happiest place on earth!