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Litvack to Resign Disney Vice Chairman Post at Year's End

October 13, 2000|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sanford M. Litvack, a low-profile but powerful Walt Disney Co. executive who served as one of Chairman Michael Eisner's closest confidantes, said he will leave the company at year's end.

Litvack, who turns 65 in April, most recently was a vice chairman of the company. He said Disney won't be replacing him.

In an interview, Litvack acknowledged that he has been considering leaving Disney for some time, adding that he chose to make the move now because Disney's financial condition is much improved from what it was a year ago. He denied he is leaving amid any tensions with Eisner.

"As far as I know, there haven't even been rumors we don't get along. If there are, they're 100% untrue," Litvack said. In a statement, Eisner said he regrets Litvack's decision.

A veteran corporate lawyer who was hired by Disney in 1991 as general counsel, Litvack said his plans remain in flux.

Litvack worked quietly behind the scenes at Disney, often handling the dirty work for Eisner such as firings, legal problems, regulatory difficulties and tense union matters. As such, he had bitter relations with such powerful executives as former President Michael Ovitz and former film chief Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Litvack also came under fire as a key architect of Disney's aggressive defense in Katzenberg's lawsuit over bonuses Katzenberg alleged were owed him. Disney ended up settling the lawsuit for more than $250 million last year in a case many analysts and lawyers believe should have been settled years earlier.

Litvack will continue working part time for Disney with departments that report directly to him now, including corporate alliances, Disney's sports teams, legal matters and government affairs. He also will continue to represent Disney on the supervisory board of Euro Disney S.C.A., which oversees the Paris theme park. Litvack will leave Disney's board when his term expires in February.

Litvack's departure has been rumored for some time, especially in the wake of Robert Iger's being named as president in January. Before that, Litvack served as Disney's de facto No. 2. Despite having such a senior role at the company, Litvack was never considered Eisner's heir apparent.

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