It was a busy weekend for the Walt Disney Co. board of directors as it announced March 13, 2005, that Robert A. Iger had been unanimously elected ceo, replacing Michael D. Eisner, effective Sept. 30. He will succeed Eisner, current ceo, who announced his intention to retire in September with a year remaining in his contract, for which hell be paid.
The move was expected for Eisners right-hand man, especially after EBay Inc. chief executive Meg Whitman dropped out of the running. Whitman, who has been with eBay for seven years, was a Disney employee from 1989 to 1992.
"After a lengthy, thorough and professional selection process, comparing both internal and external candidates against our criteria for ceo, I am pleased to announce the decision of the Walt Disney board of directors to select Robert Iger as the company's next chief executive officer," said Sen. George J. Mitchell, chairman the board. "Bob is an experienced, talented and visionary leader who has made crucial and substantial contributions toward Disney's strong performance. On behalf of the entire board, I want to express how excited we are at the prospect of Bob leading this extraordinary company and talented management team to new levels of financial and creative success in the years ahead."
"It is truly an honor to be entrusted with the responsibility of guiding this great company that occupies such an important place in the hearts and minds of millions the world over toward a very bright future," said Iger. "It's also an honor to work with our incredibly talented and dedicated worldwide team.
Directors selected the executive search firm of Heidrick & Struggles in October 2004, in order to assist in what it promised would be a, thorough, careful, and reasoned ceo selection process. The board had promised to name a successor by June 2005.
Mouse House dissidents Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold issued a statement, the next day, which read in part, "While it has taken three years to reach this point, our efforts to remove Michael Eisner as ceo of the Walt Disney Co. have finally succeeded. Even the Disney board, which has proven unresponsive to its shareholders, recognized that it had to take this action after our campaign which resulted in a resounding 45% No Confidence Vote on Michael Eisner last year.
"Unfortunately, our concerns regarding this board's process to replace Mr. Eisner were well-founded. We find it incomprehensible that the board of directors of Disney failed to find a single external candidate interested in the job and thus handed Bob Iger the job by default. We find it very telling that Mr. Mitchell refused to answer repeated questions about whether the entire board had interviewed more than one external candidate. The board has failed in what is clearly one of their most important responsibilities, the selection of the company's ceo.
Iger was named president/coo of The Walt Disney Co. in January 2000, and also became a member of Disney's board of directors and of its executive management committee.
Iger had been chairman of the Disney-owned ABC Group, where he guided the complex merger of ABC with The Walt Disney Co.
Additionally, he was president of Walt Disney International, where he created an organization embracing Europe, the Asia-Pacific Region and Latin America to establish Disney's brand on a worldwide basis and consolidate international operations under a coordinated leadership.
The heads of all of Disney's business units and its chief strategic officer report to both Eisner and Iger. Iger first became part of Disney's management team in 1996, when The Walt Disney Co. acquired Capital Cities/ABC, where Iger had been president/coo.
At ABC, Iger obtained hands-on experience in virtually every aspect of the television network business, including news, sports and entertainment, as well as the business side of television such as program acquisition, rights negotiations and business affairs. Under his watch, ABC saw tremendous growth and expanded into numerous cable and related ventures, including A&E, The History Channel, Lifetime, ESPN and ESPN-related businesses.
He began his career at ABC in 1974 as a studio supervisor in New York City, then moved to ABC Sports, where he advanced over a 12-year period through a series of increasingly responsible management posts. He became vp of programming, responsible for all scheduling and program acquisitions for ABC Sports in 1987.
Iger was promoted in 1988 to evp of the ABC Television Network and became president of ABC Entertainment in Los Angeles a year later. Iger was promoted to president to the ABC Television Network Group in New York in 1993, adding the title of president/coo of ABC in 1994.
He is a member of the board of directors of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. and New York City Outward Bound. He is a trustee of the Museum of Television and Radio and of Ithaca College, where he graduated magna cum laude.