Mouse has brand new big cheese

Disney putting Pepper in post

George Mitchell is finally leaving.

The Mouse’s board has elected former Procter & Gamble chief and current Disney director John Pepper as chairman effective Jan. 1.

Mitchell, 72, will retire at year’s end. He had been slated to leave at the close of last year, but Disney’s board asked him to stay on to facilitate an orderly succession.

Robert Iger took the CEO reins from Michael Eisner on Oct. 1.

Mitchell was named chairman at the close of a tumultuous shareholders’ meeting in spring 2004. A substantial vote of no confidence in Eisner forced the board to downgrade him by yanking the chairman title.

It’s decided to keep the posts separate.

The last few months of Mitchell’s tenure have been controversial since baseball commissioner Bud Selig named him to lead an inquiry into steroid abuse by players. Critics cited a conflict since Disney owns sports broadcasting powerhouse ESPN. Mitchell is also a director of the Boston Red Sox and a friend of Selig’s.

Mitchell (D-Maine) was Senate majority leader from 1989-95. He chaired the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland that culminated in the Belfast Peace Agreement in 1998.

Pepper, 67, worked at Procter & Gable for 38 years. He was named chairman-CEO in 1995 and retired from the company in 2002.

He served as VP of finance and administration at Yale U. from 2004-06.

Pepper is a director of Boston Scientific Corp. and of PSI, Population Services Intl. He also serves on the executive committee of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and is CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.