Roy Edward Disney, KCSG, (born January 10, 1930) was a longtime senior executive for the Walt Disney Company, which his father Roy Oliver and his uncle Walt founded. He is still a major shareholder, and currently serves as a consultant for the company with the title Director Emeritus.
He is perhaps best known for organizing the ouster of two top Disney executives: first, Ron Miller in 1984, and then Michael Eisner in 2005.
Early career at Walt Disney Productions
Disney is the son of the late Roy Oliver Disney and Edna Francis, and nephew of Walt Disney. He first began working for the Walt Disney Company as an assistant film editor of "True-Life Adventure" films in 1954. He married Patricia Ann Dailey in 1955 and is a father
of four. He continued to work as a writer, director and producer until 1967 when he was elected to the Board of Directors
of the company.
First "Save Disney" war (1984)
He resigned as an executive in 1977 due to disagreements with his colleagues' decisions at the time. As he claimed later, "I just felt creatively the company
was not going anywhere interesting. It was very stifling." But he retained a seat on the board of directors. His resignation
from the board in 1984, which occurred in the midst of a corporate takeover battle, was the beginning of a series of developments that led to the
replacement of company president and CEO Ronald William Miller (married to Walt's daughter Diane Marie Disney) by Michael Eisner and Frank Wells. Roy soon returned to the company as vice-chairman of the board of directors and head of the animation department.
Partnership with Eisner
He set his goal as revitalizing the company's tradition of animated feature films and by the end of the decade there were
successes in this department. Although Roy acted largely as a figurehead, he could wield significant power, even over Eisner,
his ostensible boss, and employees of the department have praised Roy for ensuring them plenty of artistic freedom on their
projects. During the 1990s Roy's department produced a number of commercially successful, critically acclaimed films and the era has been called a renaissance for the company and animation in general, though there was a decline in profits starting at the end of the decade. On October 16, 1998 in a surprise presentation made at the newly unveiled Disney Legends Plaza at the company's headquarters, Disney Chairman
Michael Eisner presented him with the prestigious Disney Legends Award.
Roy's pet project was the film Fantasia 2000, a sequel to the 1940 animated movie Fantasia produced by his uncle Walt Disney. Walt Disney had planned a sequel to the original movie but it was never made. Roy decided to make this long-delayed sequel,
and he was the executive producer of the film that took nine years to produce and was finally released on December 17, 1999. Like its predecessor the film combines high-quality contemporary animation and classical music. Many view it in the upper
echelon of Disney movies.
Roy has gained celebrity status. He was the last member of the Disney family to be actively involved in the company. He has been compared to both his uncle Walt Disney and his father Roy Oliver Disney, and he is said to resemble them both in appearance and personality. Forbes magazine has estimated his personal fortune at
about USD$900 million.
Second "Save Disney" war (2003-05)
After a struggle with CEO Michael Eisner, Roy Disney's influence began to wane as more executives friendly to Eisner were appointed to high posts. When the board
of directors rejected Disney's request for an extension of his term as board member, he announced his resignation on November 30, 2003, citing "serious differences of opinion about the direction and style of management" in the company. He issued a letter criticizing
Eisner for mismanaging the company, neglecting the studio's animation division, failures with ABC, timidity in the theme park business, instilling a corporate mentality in the executive structure, turning the Walt Disney Company into a "rapacious,
soul-less" company, and of refusing to establish a clear succession plan.
After his resignation, Disney helped establish the website SaveDisney.com, intended to oust Michael Eisner and his supporters
from their positions and revamp the Walt Disney Company.
On March 3, 2004, at Disney's annual shareholders' meeting, a surprising and unprecedented 43% of Disney's shareholders, predominantly rallied
by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, voted to oppose the reelection of Eisner to the corporate board of directors. This vigorous opposition, unusual in major
public corporations, convinced Disney's board to strip Eisner of his chairmanship and give that position to former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. However, the board did not give Eisner's detractors what they really wanted: his immediate removal as chief executive.
As criticism of Eisner intensified in the wake of the shareholder meeting, however, his position became more and more tenuous,
and on March 13, 2005, Eisner announced that he would step down as CEO on September 30, one year before his contract expired.
On July 8, Roy and the Walt Disney Company, then still nominally headed by Eisner but, in fact, run by Iger, agreed to "put aside their
differences." Roy was not reinstated to the board, but he was granted the title Director Emeritus and made a consultant to the company. Roy and Gold agreed to shut down their SaveDisney.com website, which went offline August 7.
On September 30, Eisner resigned both as an executive and as a member of the board of directors, and, severing all formal ties with the company,
he waived his contractual rights to perks such as use of a corporate jet, a Golden Pass and an office at the company's Burbank headquarters. Eisner's replacement was his longtime lieutenant, Bob Iger.
One of Roy Disney's stated reasons for engineering his second "Save Disney" initiative had been Eisner's well-publicized
but financially unjustified dissatisfaction with longtime production partner Pixar Animation Studios and its CEO Steve Jobs, creators of shared hits Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and other critically acclaimed computer animated motion pictures. This estrangement was quickly repaired by successor Iger
upon Eisner's exit, and on January 24, 2006, the company announced it would acquire Pixar for US $7.4 billion, catapulting Jobs, also founder and CEO of Apple Computer, to Disney's largest shareholder with 6% of the corporation's outstanding shares and a new seat on Disney's board of directors.
Former CEO Eisner, who still held 1.7% of shares, would become Disney's second largest shareholder, and Director Emeritus
Roy Disney, with 1% of shares, would become its third largest owner.
Roy Disney's efforts to oust Eisner from the legendary entertainment company were chronicled by James R. Stewart in his bestselling book, DisneyWar.
Roy Edward Disney resignation letter
author:Roy Edward Disney
November 30, 2003
Mr. Michael D. Eisner, Chairman The Walt Disney Company 500 South Buena Vista Street Burbank, CA 91521
It is with deep sadness and regret that I send you this letter of resignation from the Walt Disney Company, both as Chairman
of the Feature Animation Division and as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors.
You well know that you and I have had serious differences of opinion about the direction and style of management in the
Company in recent years. For whatever reason, you have driven a wedge between me and those I work with even to the extent
of requiring some of my associates to report my conversations and activities back to you. I find this intolerable.
Finally, you discussed with the Nominating Committee of the Board of Directors its decision to leave my name off the slate
of directors to be elected in the coming year, effectively muzzling my voice on the Board -- much as you did with Andrea Van
de Kamp last year.
Michael, I believe your conduct has resulted from my clear and unambiguous statements to you and the Board of Directors
that after 19 years at the helm you are no longer the best person to run the Walt Disney Company. You had a very successful
first 10-plus years at the Company in partnership with Frank Wells, for which I salute you. But, since Frank's untimely death
in 1994, the Company has lost its focus, its creative energy and its heritage.
As I have said, and as Stanley Gold has documented in letters to you and other members of the Board, this Company, under your leadership has failed during the
last seven years in many ways:
1. The failure to bring back ABC Prime Time from the ratings abyss it has been in for years and your inability to program
successfully the ABC Family Channel. Both of these failures have had, and I believe, will continue to have, significant adverse
impact on shareholder value.
2. Your consistent micro-management of everyone around you with the resulting loss of morale throughout this Company.
3. The timidity of your investments in our theme park business. At Disney's California Adventure, Paris and now in Hong
Kong, you have tried to build parks "on the cheap" and they show it, and the attendance figures reflect it.
4. The perception by all of our stakeholders -- consumers, investors, employees, distributors and suppliers -- that the
Company is rapacious, soul-less, and always looking for the "quick buck" rather than the long-term value which is leading
to a loss of public trust.
5. The creative brain drain of the last several years, which is real and continuing, and damages our Company with the loss
of every talented employee.
6. Your failure to establish and build constructive relationships with creative partners, especially Pixar, Miramax, and
the cable companies distributing our products.
7. Your consistent refusal to establish a clear succession plan.
In conclusion, Michael, it is my sincere belief that it is you who should be leaving and not me. Accordingly, I once again
call for your resignation or retirement. The Walt Disney Company deserves fresh, energetic leadership at this challenging
time in its history just as it did in 1984 when I headed a restructuring which resulted in your recruitment to the Company.
I have and will always have an enormous allegiance and respect for this Company, founded by my uncle, Walt, and father,
Roy, and to our faithful employees and loyal stockholders. I don't know if you and other directors can comprehend how painful
it is for me and the extended Disney family to arrive at this decision.
In accordance with Item 6 of Form 8-K and Item 7 of Schedule 14A, I request that you disclose this letter and that you
file a copy of this letter as an exhibit to a Company Form 8-K.
With sincere regret,
(Roy Disney signature)
cc: Board of Directors