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Book report: DisneyWar
Old 10-22-2005, 02:43 PM   #1
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Book report: DisneyWar

Like many frustrated Disney serfs customers, I've traded the stock to get back some of my money. I'm ahead on the deal but of course the ride was definitely an "E" ticket. (You youngsters who don't recognize that reference can go here.) I traded a pretty big chunk of shares after 9/11 and sold out for a more profitable Berkshire Hathaway position, but I've enjoyed following the career of Michael Eisner. He's also known as the eighth dwarf-- Greedy.

DisneyWar was written by one of my favorite documentary authors, James Stewart*, who was encouraged by Eisner (much to his regret) to write his biography. It's an unprecedented look at a reclusive company that works very hard to keep its secrets, only to watch Eisner piss them away in litigation depositions with Jeffrey Katzenberg and then Michael Ovitz. For those who don't know the story, Eisner did great things during his first 10 years at Disney but, after Frank Wells' death removed his only stabilizing influence, started paying himself outrageous sums of Disney money to lose even bigger sums of investor's money. The book recounts Disney's history & Eisner's life and then sets the stage for Roy O. Disney & supporters to force Eisner to step down. Ironically even Eisner's early successes are mixed with startling failures-- like ditching the Disney interest in George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic division that eventually became Pixar. You already know how the stories end, so it's a lot of fun to read about Eisner ridiculing "The Little Mermaid" or enthusiastically buying a hockey team to rename it "The Mighty Ducks". Despite being 6'3" I think Eisner has the biggest Napoleonic complex since Bonaparte himself, although Eisner would insist that his Napoleonic complex is even bigger.

If you've ever held Disney shares or wondered about the company then the book is an entertaining read. If you hold Disney shares then you should read the book just to get an idea of the type of lying scumbag CEO that Bob Iger has become. And if you're even thinking about buying Disney for its fundamentals, please read the book and consider the fate of other companies that also had great fundamentals-- like Sunbeam or Tyco or Enron. Not even a Disney DVD can overcome this type of "leadership" and "management".

*James Stewart wrote a most excellent 9/11 book about Ric Rescorla, a hero of Vietnam's Ia Drang who went on to become head of security for a brokerage firm's offices in the World Trade Center. Rescorla saved hundreds during the evacuation of the buildings but didn't make it out. Stewart somehow recognized the name from Hal Moore's "We Were Soldiers Once... and Young" and wrote Rescorla's biography.

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