Mouse board backs Eisner

Chairmanship of Mitchell also made official

Michael Eisner’s reign at Disney looked secure for at least the time being, after the Mouse’s board of directors late Tuesday gave the company’s CEO a seemingly unanimous thumbs up.

Concluding its two-day retreat Tuesday, the Disney board gave the teflon CEO and his senior management team their full backing, and said Eisner’s management authority was unchanged. In a statement late Tuesday night, the board said it “continues to have complete confidence in Michael Eisner, (chief operating officer) Bob Iger and the senior management team and in their strategic growth plan to continue to strengthen the company’s position as the global leader in quality family entertainment.”

The board formally approved the division of labor between CEO Eisner and George Mitchell, who assumed the chairmanship after the contentious March 3 annual shareholders meeting where 45% of voters withheld approval of Eisner’s board re-appointment.

“The board is confident that the management team is executing against its strategic plan in order to continue to drive long-term shareholder value,” the board statement said.

The directors shrugged off concerns of some of its shareholder agitators by sticking with Eisner but said they reviewed CEO and senior management succession plans and evaluated the performance and growth potential of the top tier of Disney execs. No details were provided as to what that succession plan might entail. Some observers thought the board might have outlined a more detailed plan and timetable for succession to address some shareholder concerns.

In his new role as chairman, Mitchell is charged with all succession planning as well as the CEO’s performance review.

Mitchell said: “I will work diligently in fulfilling these responsibilities which are designed to facilitate and coordinate the work of the board in the discharge of its oversight responsibility of management and the company. As CEO and with the full support of the board, Michael Eisner continues to have the same authority to manage the operations of the company as he has previously held.”

With all eyes on the fate of Disney stock Wednesday morning, investors will also be awaiting word from Mouse House bidder Comcast, which announces its first quarter results this morning. Some analysts believe the cabler may opt to pull its bid off the table, at least temporarily, and await a chance to come back in with a new offer if and when Disney’s stock declines.

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