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Mitchell Promises Active Role at Disney

March 12, 2004|Tamara Lytle | Orlando Sun-Sentinel

WASHINGTON — George Mitchell, the new chairman of Walt Disney Co., vowed Thursday to hold the company's management accountable, sort out who will lead the company in the future and take an active role in his new job.

Disney's board elevated Mitchell after 43% of shareholders withheld votes for Chief Executive Michael Eisner's reelection to the board. Eisner also had held the title of chairman.

Mitchell said the shareholder vote and the unwanted takeover bid by Comcast Corp. had prompted board members to listen to critical viewpoints and to split Eisner's job in two.

The former U.S. senator spoke at a gathering of corporate attorneys at a seminar of the Corporate Counsel Institute, run by Mitchell's alma mater, Georgetown Law School. He declined to answer questions.

Mitchell told the lawyers that the board "does not intend this just to be a change in title. The board will participate actively in developing and overseeing strategy and will hold management accountable."

But disgruntled investors have complained that Mitchell was not independent enough from Eisner and that the company had experienced a financial slump and loss of talented executives in recent years.

Mitchell stressed that Disney had shaken up its policies in recent years to bring independent members to its board, put non-management directors into key positions overseeing pay and audits and limited how many other boards its directors sat on.

"As a result, the board and its processes have been completely transformed," he said.

"It is taking time for the perception to catch up to reality."

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