Disney Doesn’t Support Disney on Board at Disney

Last week, Disney shareholder Frank Wierenga put forth a proposal to the board of directors of the Walt Disney Co. to open a seat on the board to a member of the Disney family. Roy Disney responded with gratitude, but declined the proposal on behalf of the Disneys. Below is Roy Disneys response to the proposal.

As you may have learned, Disney shareholder Frank Wierenga has submitted a proposal for this year's annual meeting that would reserve a seat for a Disney family member on the Walt Disney Company Board of Directors. Read the full text of the proposal at MickeyNews.com.

My family and I want to thank Mr. Wierenga for his kind words. His trust in the Disney family name is an honor that we take very seriously. Stakeholders like Mr. Wierenga who care so deeply about the future of the Walt Disney Company that they are willing to put forth the time and effort necessary to get a measure like this on the company ballot are an inspiration to us all. His commitment to the welfare and longevity of the Disney Company illustrates the unique place the Company holds in the hearts of so many and exemplifies why it is so important to hold fast to the values and ideals upon which the Company was founded. We sincerely agree with Mr. Wierenga that the Disney Company is more than a business and that the rich heritage of Disney's past is a crucial element of Disney's success in the future. We have tried to nurture those same values through our efforts when I was a member of the Disney Board of Directors and now at SaveDisney.com.

While we wholeheartedly concur with Mr. Wierenga that the Disney Board should include committed, vigilant directors who share Walt's vision, we also believe that, in the interest of good corporate governance, no one should have the right to a seat on the Board merely because of his or her last name. Directors should be selected for, among other things, their ability, experience and willingness to actively oversee Company management. The Disney name alone would not make a director an independent advocate for excellence. Of course, contrary to recent statements by the Company in opposition to Mr. Wierenga's proposal, the Disney name alone would also not keep a director from being independent. At heart, the selection of directors must hinge on an evaluation of the talents and strengths of each candidate, whether his or her name be Disney or Smith. Accordingly, we have to respectfully decline to support Mr. Wierenga's proposal.

We do, however, fully agree with Mr. Wierenga's sentiment that the Disney Board has a duty to uphold the traditions and values of the Disney Company that foster the creative spark so critical to the Company's long-term success. We hope the Board will carry out this responsibility in the short-term by fulfilling its promise to add qualified, independent directors to the Board and by hiring an exceptional chief executive officer as soon as possible. It is essential that the Board appoint a ceo who will break with the failed policies of the current executive management team and restore the Company to its former stature. The Disney Company is a publicly-traded corporation, not a personal fiefdom, and just as the Disney family has no inherent right to serve on the Board, Mr. Eisner should have no "divine right" to decree his successor. We fervently hope that the Board will have the fortitude and independence to hire the best candidate for the job, and not just meekly anoint Mr. Eisner's chosen crown prince.

The current Disney board has before it the opportunity to steer the Disney Company's ship back on course, and we are watching closely to see whether it will rise to the challenge. In the meantime, we thank Mr. Wierenga and all of our SaveDisney supporters for continually striving to keep the magic alive.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
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