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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

Mike's Not Meddling After All

Business: Eisner watches the Angels and Mighty Ducks--and their budgets--but he leaves operations to Tavares.

May 15, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He may be known as "Meddling Mike" in the entertainment industry, but Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner is hands-off when it comes to running the company's two professional sports teams.

"There's this perception that Michael has his fingers in everything, but that's the farthest thing from the truth," said Tony Tavares, president of the Mighty Ducks and Angels.

"Mike is not involved in day-to-day decisions at all. He looks at budgets at the end of the year, but he isn't involved with player-personnel decisions. . . . I write him weekly reports on the Angels and Ducks, but I don't even know if he reads them. I'm not saying he doesn't, but I've never asked him."

Certainly, Eisner was the driving force behind Disney's purchase of an NHL expansion team in 1993, but he has since been more fan than commander of the Ducks and Angels, whose control Disney assumed last May.

When Eisner attends games, he likes going down to the clubhouse to chat with players, and he has been known to give players creative gifts when they reach milestones, but you won't find him mingling with agents or at the negotiating table.

Regarding the status of Duck Coach Ron Wilson and star winger Paul Kariya, Eisner recently told ESPN2, "I'm not involved in the day-to-day discussions. . . . But definitely [the Ducks want to keep] Paul Kariya and probably Ron Wilson too."

Eisner took no part in negotiations that resulted in a four-year, $22.5-million contract extension for Angel outfielder Tim Salmon in March, and he does not expect to be involved in contract talks this summer with Kariya.

"I would only need consent from [Eisner] if something went way over budget," Tavares said. "Or maybe if we were having a problem with a real big contract negotiation."

Tavares said Eisner has attended only two NHL meetings, one when the league awarded Disney the hockey team, and he has not gone to any baseball owners' meetings.

Eisner is no longer the Mighty Ducks' representative on the NHL's board of governors--Tavares assumed that role last year--and fears that Eisner would try to railroad radical ideas, such as shootouts to settle tie games and placing coaches in front of the bench, never materialized.

Eisner was involved, however, in the development of game-day entertainment plans for Duck games, and he did tour several stadiums around the country with Tavares and Anaheim city officials to pick up ideas for the Anaheim Stadium renovation.

"One of the fun things for him is to play around with architecture and stadium designs," Tavares said. "But as far as running the Ducks and Angels, I don't feel encumbered at all."

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