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THE '80s A Special Report : TASTE MAKERS : Presenting the big players and major ideas that--for better or worse--shaped the 1980s. This is Calendar's fifth annual Taste Makers report, expanded this time to cover the last 10 years in the following categories: Show Business Execs, Film Producers, Film Directors and Writers, Stage, TV, Music, Dance, Pop Music, Jazz, Comedy, Radio, Art and Restaurants. : SHOW BUSINESS EXECUTIVES : MICHAEL EISNER

December 24, 1989|ELAINE DUTKA

In the five years since 47-year-old Michael Eisner was brought in as chairman and CEO to pick up the pieces of a company decimated by a hostile takeover attempt, he's transformed the Walt Disney Co. into a recreation powerhouse more far-reaching than even Walt had envisioned.

Though grounded in the classics, Eisner has made his living with his gut . . . said to be one of the most commercial in the business. In the mid-'70s, he led ABC-TV to the top of the prime-time charts and later, as president of Paramount Picture's film division under CEO Barry Diller, presided over the studio's Golden Years.

Possessed of a child-like enthusiasm, Eisner generates an endless stream of ideas that Team Disney is called on to implement. Disney's feature film division (under the leadership of Eisner protege Jeffrey Katzenberg) has climbed from the basement to No. 1 last year. The theme park division (sparked by new attractions such as "Captain EO" and "Star Tours") has increased its revenues 250%. With corporate profits multiplying seven-fold, Disney stock--valued at $2 billion in 1984--is now worth an estimated $16 billion.

For his efforts, Eisner--after exercising three years of stock options--walked away with nearly $41 million in 1988.

The Taste Makers project was edited by David Fox, assistant Sunday Calendar editor.

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