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Joe Shapiro, a former executive vice president at the Walt Disney Co. who was instrumental in strengthening the company’s law department, died Sept. 23 following a lengthy battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Santa Monica. He was 52.

Shapiro, who joined Disney in 1985, served as the company’s general counsel under CEO Michael Eisner, and specialized in the negotiation of major contracts. Shapiro is perhaps best remembered as the chief negotiator for Disney in the construction, financing and operation of Disneyland Paris.

Shapiro additionally recruited top lawyers to work in Disney’s law department.

Commentating on Shapiro’s death, Eisner stated, “Joe rebuilt our entire legal department … He had a brilliant mind both for the law and for business, and he has been much missed throughout Disney.”

Shapiro left Disney in 1994 while battling his illness, and began a new career as a professor teaching in the finance and law department at California State U, Los Angeles.

A graduate of Harvard Law School in 1971, Shapiro was a partner at Donovan Leisure Newton & Irvine prior to his association with Disney.

He is survived by his wife, Pam Shriver, a professional women’s tennis player, a sister, Beth, a niece and nephew.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Shapiro’s name be made to the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Medical Oncology, St. John’s Health Center, 2001 Santa Monica Blvd., Ste. 560, Santa Monica 90404, or to California State U, Los Angeles, Athletic Dept., 5151 State University Dr., L.A. 90032-8120. For further information call Howard B. Soloway at (213) 892-5413.