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Disney Management Is Capable of Turnaround

October 13, 2002

Re "Failing Magic at Disney," Editorial, Sept. 29:

The Orange County Taxpayers Assn. (OCTax) is puzzled by The Times' blunt criticism of Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner. In his 18-year tenure, Disney's revenue has grown from less than $2 billion to more than $25 billion. Gosh, he must be doing something right. Disney has slumped only in the last two years. Terrorism, threat of war and recession are enemies of a business that is dependent on tourism, leisure, and discretionary income, yet Disney's problems are no greater than those of the general economy.

OCTax shares the Times' concern for Southern California's entertainment and retail sectors, but probably for different reasons. Taxpayer reasons. Even in this recession, Disneyland, California Adventure, Downtown Disney and the Anaheim Angels generate millions of dollars in taxable sales in Orange County, and employ more than 20,000 tax-paying people. This eases the tax burden on the rest of us.

There's another indirect tax benefit of Disney's presence in Orange County. Every year Disney hires thousands of young "cast members" for its various attractions, many with little experience, skills or work ethic. Disney teaches them to be well-groomed, punctual, reliable, poised, courteous and customer-focused. These young people are well-prepared to enter the general employment market. At no cost to taxpayers, Disney does more to qualify our future workers than a dozen government employment programs.

Like The Times, OCTax wants Disney to get back to full speed. Unlike The Times, OCTax is confident that Disney's management is up to the task.

Reed L. Royalty

President, OCTax

San Juan Capistrano

*

The Times may be exaggerating a little when it says that what's bad for the Walt Disney Co. is bad for Southern California. But the converse is surely true: when Disney does well, Southern California (and particularly Orange County) does well. And, recently, things have gone very well. The Disney-owned Angels are dazzling their fans. The California Adventure theme park has revitalized the aging Disneyland Resort area and triggered an Orange County boom in new hotel construction. And Disney, one of the largest employers in Orange County, consistently has exemplified the good corporate citizen, supporting programs in almost every corner of our community.

In any organization, there needs to be constant reinvention and rethinking, so it is no surprise that Disney is taking steps to improve its internal governance structure and to improve its profitability. After 18 years at the helm, it is not surprising that the focus of any change revolves around Eisner. What is surprising is the shortsighted view that a downward blip in stock prices in a rough economic period somehow translates into an editorial suggesting Disney and Eisner should change course. Absolutely wrong. The role Disney plays in the Southern California economy (and in Orange County) has never been more vibrant. The role the company plays in the community is exceptional. And the man who provided the vision, and who raised all of our expectations in making his vision very, very real, is the main reason we should have faith in Disney's future.

Stan Oftelie

Irvine

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