Statement made by Senator George J. Mitchell at 3:00 p.m., ET on Sunday, March 13, 2005 regarding the announcement made by the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company unanimously electing Robert A. Iger Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company:
Good afternoon. I am pleased to announce that the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company has unanimously chosen Robert Iger, Disney’s President and Chief Operating Officer, to succeed Michael Eisner as Chief Executive Officer. Bob will assume the position of CEO on October 1 of this year.
After a thorough and careful process, comparing both internal and external candidates against our criteria for CEO, the Board concluded that Bob Iger was clearly the best qualified individual to lead this company into the future. His appointment is subject to the conclusion of a new employment agreement.
Bob began his career at ABC more than 30 years ago and has served in roles ranging from programming executive, to President and COO of Capital Cities / ABC, Inc., to his current role, which puts him in charge of the vast majority of major day-to-day operations of The Walt Disney Company, in addition to participating in strategic decisions and spearheading the company’s expansion in Asia.
He has played a major role in the company’s recent strong financial performance, with earnings growth in excess of 60% in the last fiscal year, record cash flow, and improved returns on invested capital. The total return on Disney’s stock has outperformed both the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and its major media competitors over the last 1- and 3-year periods and, in December, the Board raised the company’s annual dividend by over 14%.
Along with this outstanding financial success, both external and internal research shows that the Disney name continues to be held in extremely high regard by consumers. With expectations that Disney is on track to deliver record earnings during the current fiscal year, we on the Board are excited at the prospect of continued growth with Bob leading the company’s deep bench of outstanding executives.
Today, the sun literally never sets on the operations of The Walt Disney Company. Disney is active on six continents and nearly every time zone. While we will continue to cultivate, extend and reinvigorate our great heritage, much of the company’s future growth prospects depend on encouraging creativity, attracting new audiences, and on exploiting the many new technologies that will continue to have a decisive influence on content companies going forward.
Bob Iger’s experience as President and Chief Operating Officer of The Walt Disney Company, and his prior service at Capital Cities / ABC, have uniquely prepared him for both the opportunities and challenges that face the company. He brings a deep understanding of its culture, its heritage, its complex operations, and its people.
We believe that Bob’s accomplishments and vision; his energy and integrity; his ability to lead and motivate; to champion and embrace new technologies; to expand into new geographic markets; and to preserve and extend the great heritage of Disney, make him the best choice to lead the company going forward.
The Walt Disney Company remains unique among major media companies; a commercial enterprise that, nevertheless, stands for something much larger – a heritage, a set of common values, and an optimistic promise to the public.
We on the Board feel a strong sense of obligation to the many millions of people for whom The Walt Disney Company means so much, and we are confident that Bob shares that sense of mission and duty to the values and place this company holds in the hearts of people all over the world.
One of the principal reasons for the success of the company has been Michael Eisner. Michael has lived and breathed the job for two decades. Under his dynamic leadership, Disney has been transformed into the preeminent entertainment company in the world, while still staying true to its roots as the leading provider of quality family entertainment. Michael’s creativity, integrity and tireless dedication to the interests of Disney’s shareholders and millions of fans worldwide have demonstrated what true leadership is all about. We are grateful that he will work closely with Bob and the management team to assure a smooth and successful transition. And we are confident that he will continue to blaze new trails of entertainment innovation.
Last September, the Board announced that it would embark on what is undoubtedly one of the most important, if not the most important duty of any board, the search for a successor to the Chief Executive Officer. At that time, the Board stated that it would, “engage in a thorough, careful, and reasoned process to select as the next CEO the best person for the company, its shareholders, employees, customers, and for the many millions of others who care so much about The Walt Disney Company….”
To achieve that objective we said we would: 1. “Engage an executive search firm to assist the Board in selecting a CEO who possesses the qualities and experience the Board believes are necessary for this important position, 2. Consider both internal and external candidates…, 3. Complete the process and announce a successor as soon as possible, with an expected date of completion of June 2005, [and] 4. [Work with] Michael Eisner to assure a smooth and effective transition….”
We have done everything we said we would do.
All non-management directors were fully and actively engaged in the process. Bob Iger recused himself from the process, and the Board consulted with Michael Eisner as appropriate.
- We selected the executive search firm of Heidrick & Struggles.
- We carefully considered an internal and several external candidates. We evaluated a large number of individuals, in consultation with Heidrick and Struggles, and Board members met with potential candidates.
- Since we began the process last September, the board has devoted 11 meetings to this subject; including 9 in-person meetings, one video conference, and one telephonic meeting. During those meetings, the Board covered the subject in the most detailed and careful manner.
- During its 11 meetings on succession, the board regularly met first with Michael Eisner present and then met for an extended period of time without him present.
- As I said, Bob Iger recused himself and did not participate at all in any of the meetings.
- In addition to selecting a successor, we have developed a plan to achieve a smooth and effective transition.
With the guidance of Heidrick and Struggles, and the many years’ experience represented by our Board members, we believe that the process we have followed has adhered scrupulously to the highest standards of objectivity and thoroughness.
We approached the selection with open minds, without preconditions or prior determinations. We acted carefully and prudently.
Our sole objective has been to identify and appoint the best leader for The Walt Disney Company, and we have done so.
The transition period of approximately six months is appropriate and reasonable, within the range of other similar processes, and in the best interest of the company. During that time, Bob will share duties with Michael Eisner.
In addition to the CEO succession process, the Board has undertaken to complete two additional tasks that we have previously announced.
We have committed to a search for an additional, independent director. That process will continue and we intend to identify and announce a candidate no later than the end of calendar 2005.
With regard to the role of Chairman, the Board will take up this matter in time to have a successor ready upon my retirement at the next annual meeting.
I’d like to say that, from the beginning, we’ve made it clear that while the process would be public, the details would be private. This is especially important when the lives and careers of other persons are concerned. It would be inappropriate for me and unfair to them for me to comment in any way that might affect anyone involved in the process.