Disney vet Litvack will call it quits

Exec plans part-time role

Disney vice chairman Sanford “Sandy” Litvack will ankle the Mouse House at year’s end for unspecified greener pastures.

The departure of Litvack, 64, had been rumored as long ago as spring 1999, when Disney chairman Michael Eisner was caught in a tempestuous court hearing over a suit by former Disney exec and DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg. The case ultimately was settled but only after a nasty public airing of the feud, which insiders said took a toll on Litvack.

In a statement, the 58-year-old Eisner said Litvack would be missed.

“I regret Sandy’s decision, but I accept it and respect his desire to pursue new ventures,” the Disney boss said.

Part-time presence

He noted that terms of Litvack’s departure will see him continue in a part-time executive role on legal and governmental matters. The departing exec also will continue to represent Disney on the Euro Disney board.

Officials said Litvack’s post won’t be refilled, and various of his duties will be dispersed among other execs.

Litvack declined to say what he will do next professionally but said he’s eyeing various opportunities. In the short run, Litvack said he may take seats on a couple of corporate boards, something discouraged among full-time Disney execs.

“I had committed to Michael that I wouldn’t leave until the company was in great shape and there were no disasters of any sort on the horizon,” Litvack said with a laugh. “I decided now was the time.”

Indeed, Disney has put behind it problems including the Katzenberg lawsuit and gets high marks for efforts to turn around troubling operational areas, including a flat consumer-products unit. Its stock price has regained some of its previous luster among investors, although it suffered a setback Thursday, when its shares sunk along with most other U.S. stocks.

Litvack joined Disney in 1991 as senior veep and general counsel before being upped to exec VP for law and human resources. He later was promoted to senior exec VP and chief of corporate operations and then to vice chairman.

“Sandy has provided tremendous leadership and guidance to us during his 10 years with the Walt Disney Company, particularly during the very difficult period following the death of our late president and (chief operating officer) Frank Wells in 1994,” Eisner said.

Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen said Litvack’s departure was unlikely to hurt Disney’s operations.

“You hate to see people go, but I don’t think it has a big impact,” Cohen said. “He was very close to (Eisner) but was not an operating manager.”