Shareholders file Mouse appeal

Investors looking to reverse ruling

NEW YORK — A lawyer for Walt Disney shareholders on Wednesday appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court to reverse a ruling last August in favor of the Mouse’s board of directors, following a raucous trial focused on the $130 million severance package of former Disney exec Michael Ovitz.

Steven Schulman of Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman called the ruling by Delaware Chancery Court Judge William Chandler III flawed and insisted Disney directors breached their responsibility to shareholders in Ovitz’s hiring and payout when he left after only 14 months on the job.

Gregory Williams, a lawyer representing the defendants, including former CEO Michael Eisner and members of Disney’s board and management team during the Ovitz era, said the board acted properly, and “no one expected this perfect storm” that saw relations deteriorate and Ovitz ankle so soon.

The appeal, filed in October, is the last leg of the case, which has dragged on for nearly a decade and is beginning to sound like ancient history with Bob Iger now at the helm at Disney. Most lawyers doubt there’s a chance that Chandler’s voluminous ruling will be overturned.

Chandler, in the document, slammed Eisner for being domineering and the board for being too docile, but said he found no illegality. He cited the “business judgment rule” to show directors acted in good faith when granting the severance package.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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