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Roy Disney Quits, Calls for Eisner’s Resignation

Roy E. Disney, vice chairman of Walt Disney Co. stepped down from the board of directors and called on chairman/chief exec Michael Eisner to resign in a scathing letter.

On Sunday, Nov. 30, 2003, he sent a three-page letter to Eisner criticizing the chairman's leadership over the past seven years. Disney has called for Eisner's resignation in the past, but the idea was rejected by the board.

"Michael, I believe your conduct has resulted from my clear and unambiguous statements to you and the Board of Directors that after 19 years at the helm, you are no longer the best person to run the Walt Disney Company," Disney wrote. "It is my sincere belief that it is you that should be leaving and not me," Disney wrote to Eisner.

Some consider Disney's departure may be a pre-emptive move rather than being forced from the board of The Walt Disney Co. He is the nephew of company co-founder Walt Disney as well as the last family member to be active in the company.

The full board is meeting today and Tuesday at its regularly scheduled meetings in New York with board membership is on the agenda. The board's governance and nominating committee did not recommend the 73-year-old Disney for another term because he is over the mandated retirement age of 72, the company said Sunday.

The board's presiding director, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, said in a statement Sunday he regretted Disney's actions and confirmed that the governance and nominating committee recently informed Disney that the age-limit rules should apply.

Two other board members, Raymond Watson, 76, and Thomas Murphy, 77 were also were not to be re-nominated this year due to the age limit. Watson, vice chairman of The Irvine Co., a large California builder, was an adviser to Walt Disney on the design of Disney's Epcot Center in Florida and has been on the board since at least 1984. Murphy served as chairman/chief exec of Capital Cities/ABC until Disney bought the broadcaster in 1995.

Disney previously resigned from the board in 1984, initiating a stock battle for the company when it was headed by Ron Miller, Walt Disney's son-in-law. Disney was later reinstated.

Roy Disney's letter also blames Eisner for a loss of morale at the company. He accused Eisner for causing a perception that "the company is rapacious, soul-less, and always looking for the 'quick buck' rather than the long-term value which is leading to a loss of public trust."

He also criticizes Eisner for the failure to maintain constructive relationships with business partners, including Pixar Animation Studios, which co-produces computer-animated films with Disney, including the record-breaking FINDING NEMO.