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Lessons From The Not-So-Wonderful World Of Disney

Harvey L. Pitt | September 27, 2005

The Walt Disney Company has transformed many engaging fairy tales and stories into fantastic animated and live-action movies. Unfortunately, over the last decade, the most intriguing Disney productions have emanated from its corporate executive suite. From the highly-publicized trial in Delaware Chancery Court regarding Michael Ovitz’s compensation and termination packages, to James Stewart’s gripping and revealing recent book, DisneyWar, the public has watched a number of board-level dramas unfold at the Not-Always-So-Wonderful World of Disney.

In Chancellor Chandler’s 174-page opinion disposing of claims about the hiring and firing of former Disney president Michael Ovitz, there are many lessons to be learned (or unlearned, depending on your perspective). Some of the best lessons must be gleaned by reading between the lines; the record is replete with examples of the contrast between “ideal corporate governance practices and the...

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