Disney rips dissident duo’s suit

Nonmanagement directors rejecting allegations

NEW YORK — A group of directors of the Walt Disney Co. on Thursday blasted a lawsuit filed earlier this week by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, calling the allegations therein “baseless and inaccurate.”

Suit, filed Monday in Delaware Chancery Court, accused the company and its board of lying to shareholders when they promised to conduct a good-faith CEO search to replace chief exec Michael Eisner. Roy Disney and Gold claim the deck was stacked in favor of chief operating officer Bob Iger.

Suit named Eisner, Iger, chairman George Mitchell and board members Judith Estrin, John Chen, Aylwin Lewis, Monica Lozano and Leo O’Donovan.

In a statement, the so-called nonmanagement directors of the board, including Mitchell, O’Donovan, Chen, Estrin, Lewis, Lozano, Fred Langhammer, John Bryson, Robert Matschullat and Gary Wilson, said they “categorically” reject the allegations.

“Last September, we committed the board to a thorough, careful and reasoned process to select Disney’s next chief executive officer. Over the following six months, we conducted just such a process. We identified Bob Iger as the only internal candidate to be considered, and opened up consideration of external candidates. We were aided by Heidrick & Struggles, one of the leading executive search firms.

“At the end of the process, we unanimously concluded that Bob Iger was the best choice to lead the company forward as CEO. The performance of the company in the period leading up to the selection and since that time only underscores our confidence in the selection we made.”

Disney issued its own statement Monday calling the suit frivolous, baseless and mean-spirited — sentiments Iger echoed during a conference call Wednesday to discuss the Mouse’s strong quarterly earnings.

“I, for one, will not allow myself to be deterred and distracted,” he said.

Roy Disney and Gold are asking the court to void the most recent election of Disney directors and to compel the company to hold another election after “full and fair disclosure of all material facts about the CEO selection process.”