Disney’s Eisner to Make Exit in 2006

Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner, who led the charge
against Comcast’s hostile takeover earlier this year,
will step down in 2006. And his replacement may come from just about any industry — tech included.

Already under pressure for the company’s unspectacular financial
performance, Eisner was criticized by some insiders and investors for
rebuffing the cable and broadband giant’s $46 billion bid.

The prospect of Disney’s entertainment content flowing
over Comcast’s networks intrigued Eisner, but he thought the offer was too low. Comcast
stepped away and the companies signed a more modest distribution deal this
summer.

But neither the Comcast fallout, nor complaints about his overall
management, prompted his decision to retire, the 62-year-old said in an
interview published in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The 20-year Disney vet said the company was regaining its footing, and he
wanted to give the board of directors enough time to make an orderly
transition. His planned departure date coincides with the expiration of his
current contract.

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Eisner offered his
support to Disney president Robert Iger to be his successor. But a number
of names are being floated from a number of industries including media,
retail and technology.

IT executives, especially those whose companies operate in the consumer
space, are more likely to be considered now than in previous years, as
broadband connections and faster processors blur the line between television and
computers.

Among them is eBay CEO Meg Whitman, according to the
Wall Street Journal. Whitman is no stranger to Disney, having
worked there from 1989 to 1992.

As senior vice president of marketing for the company’s consumer products
division, she led the company’s move into book publishing. She also oversaw
the acquisition of Discover Magazine, according to her biography on eBay’s
Web site.

An eBay spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the report.
Whitman joined the auction giant in 1998 and it has prospered under her
leadership.

Another IT name thought to be on the lists of some Disney directors is Steve
Jobs, who leads Apple Computer and Pixar Animation
Studios , the Wall Street Journal reported.

However with his current responsibilities, Jobs “may fall into the category
of wishful thinking,” the newspaper concluded.

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