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Hit shows ‘Lost’ on Eisner?

Mouse maven opposed ABC breakouts, according to tome

The manuscript most sought after by Hollywood book scouts last week was a nonfiction tome that will likely never be made into a movie.

“Disneywar: The Battle for the Magic Kingdom” by James B. Stewart is under lock and key until its March 7 release. But current and former Disney execs have seen sections of the sprawling manuscript, fueling speculation about its impact on the succession of Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

Stewart, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter, secured the cooperation of Eisner. But his portrait of the Mouse House chieftain is said to be especially unflattering, exposing his micromanagement of the company, as well as deep institutional problems that could haunt Disney well after Eisner’s expected resignation later this year.

In addition to dishing on the shareholder lawsuit over Michael Ovitz‘s 1996 exit, the book from Simon & Schuster is said to re-examine Eisner’s rifts with other top execs — Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein; Pixar chief Steve Jobs; and DreamWorks co-principal Jeffrey Katzenberg.

And the leaks come at an uncomfortable moment both for Eisner and for the incumbent candidate for Eisner’s job, Disney president Robert Iger: Disney’s annual investors conference in Orlando, Fla., begins Jan. 31. Two weeks later, Disney holds its annual meeting in Minneapolis.

The two events are intended to showcase Disney’s strong performance in recent months, boosted by the resurgence of ABC. Disney stock is up more than 30% in the last year, thanks in part to the success of “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost.”

ABC’s years in ratings purgatory no doubt provide plenty of grist for Stewart’s book. TV circles are abuzz with rumors that the book quotes several former Alphabet execs (possibly including ousted ABC chairman Lloyd Braun).

Some execs are brutal in their assessment of top Disney brass, according to sources familiar with passages in the book. Top Disney management is portrayed as having opposed greenlighting the Alphabet net’s “Lost,” which turned out to be a smash it.

Two people familiar with the book say Eisner goes on record stating his opposition to “Lost.”

Of course, Disney execs probably had good reason to initially fear “Lost.” Pilot’s cost dramatically increased during production, and in an early draft of the script, the character played by series star Matthew Fox was killed off.

While ABC is enjoying its accolades at the moment, Stewart’s account of the tensions and intrigues that went into its two big shows could distract from some of its euphoria.