Ripping into Eisner


L.A. Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik today compares Michael Eisner's new situation to the one Gray Davis faced as last year's recall bore down on him -- and finds the comparison "perhaps to be unfair to Davis."

Increasingly isolated in his corporate redoubt, Michael Eisner must be contemplating the strategy to pursue when you've got a reputation as a cold, imperious leader with an uneven track record, a host of alienated ex-associates and a well-financed opponent determined to place your management style and fiscal stewardship under the microscope...

Eisner's personality defects have been a major contributor to the long-term ailments that have now made his company the target of a takeover bid from Comcast Corp.

Most of these defects have been endlessly masticated by observers in the film industry and the press. Eisner's reluctance to delegate authority, much less to set a date for his own retirement after two decades at the helm and to groom a successor, has driven off enough talented executives to fill the corporate dining rooms at entertainment conglomerates all over town. His taste for adolescent infighting has led him into a series of embarrassing public feuds, and it doesn't say much for his judgment that he seems to lose most of them at a huge cost to the company.

Adds Hiltzik: "In an ideal world, a responsible board of directors would have long since hooked a leash to a chief executive who performed this way. But rather than function as a useful counterweight, the Disney board has generally behaved like the House of Peers in the Gilbert & Sullivan song, which "did nothing in particular, and did it very well."

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