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Inside Move: Curious George

Mouse's Mitchell hit on corporate conflicts

Inconveniently for the Mouse, which has been embracing kinder, gentler corporate-governance rules amid a takeover campaign by Comcast, Disney board chairman George Mitchell occasionally displays less regard for such niceties in his other corporate connections.

Mitchell, recently upped from Mouse presiding director, continues to maintain seats on the boards of other companies with less stringent corporate governance policies.

And that’s provided fuel for Mouse crix at various pension funds and elsewhere to suggest Mitchell’s commitment to more shareholder-friendly corporate governance is shaky.

Specifically, Mitchell’s gotten consulting fees from companies where he’s a director, a practice Disney recently ended for Mitchell and other board members. The former U.S. senator — and current partner in Washington law firm Piper Rudnick — also sits on corporate boards including those of FedEx and Staples.

A Disney spokesman rejects any notion that Mitchell has a tenuous commitment to stricter corporate governance.

“It would be very unfair to suggest that Sen. Mitchell is anything other than entirely committed to strong corporate governance,” Mouse spokesman John Spelich says.

Disney directors made Mitchell their chairman after wresting the title from CEO Michael Eisner on March 3. That’s when 43% of Mouse shareholders voted to withhold approval of a new board term for their head Mouseketeer.

But some 24% similarly opposed Mitchell’s reinstatement as well.

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