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Michael Eisner

Business Personality

Born: 7 March 1942
Birthplace: Mount Kisco, New York
Best known as: CEO of Walt Disney Company, 1984-2005

Michael Eisner was the longtime chief executive and chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Company and the man generally considered responsible for Disney's monumental success in the 1990s. During the 1970s and early '80s Eisner earned his reputation as a keen businessman, first as a programming director for ABC television and then as president of Paramount movie studios. He took charge of Disney in 1984 and turned it into a media giant whose interests included movies, sports franchises, theme parks and television networks (including Eisner's former employer, ABC). Eisner became one of the richest men in the United States, but things started to go downhill in the late '90s. Disney's troubles included: a public feud between Eisner and former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg (who went on to co-found DreamWorks Studios with David Geffen and Steven Spielberg); sinking ratings for ABC television; limited success at the box office; ill-considered theme park developments; and a famously bad billion-dollar gamble on the Internet via the subsidiary Go.com. With problems mounting and Eisner's reputation tarnished, Roy Disney, Walt Disney's nephew, quit as vice president in 2003 to lead an anti-Eisner crusade. In 2004 Disney's board of directors removed Eisner from the chair, and in 2005 Eisner stepped down as the company's CEO and was replaced by company president Robert Iger.

Extra credit:

Under Eisner, ABC's 1970s successes included Happy Days and Alex Haley's Roots... While Eisner was at Paramount their hits included Saturday Night Fever (1977, with John Travolta), Beverly Hills Cop (1982, with Eddie Murphy) and the first three Star Trek motion pictures... A new "golden age" of Disney animation occurred in Eisner's first decade with the company, with successful features such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992, with the voice of Robin Williams)... Disney owned baseball's Anaheim Angels (1996-2003) and still owns hockey's Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

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