Media Leadership Style Analysis of Michael Eisner

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Media Leadership Style Analysis of Michael Eisner
Whitney M. Wright
Regent University

Media Leadership Style Analysis of Michael Eisner
Media Leadership Example
Michael Eisner was recruited by Walt Disney Company from Paramount Pictures in 1984 to help Disney out of its financial slump in the 80’s. Eisner helped revamp Disney’s theme parks as well as rejuvenating their movie studio. In the process, Eisner helped “make Disney into a television powerhouse, climaxing those efforts with the takeover of Capital Cities-ABC…yet when Michael Eisner assumed leadership of the company, Disney was in trouble. It was Eisner and his staff who turned the ailing theme park company into a media powerhouse” (Gomery, 1995). Eisner moved over to Disney from Paramount taking along with him Jeffery Katzenberg to make motion pictures under two new brand names: Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures. Eisner and Katzenberg worked well together until 1994 when they got into a dispute over a promised promotion as well as litigation involving a breach of contract lawsuit where Disney owed Katzenberg around $250 million. “The two sides reached a partial settlement in November 1997 in which Disney conceded that Mr. Katzenberg was owed something, and Disney paid Mr. Katzenberg $117 million” (Fabrikant, 1999). Michael Eisner has been widely criticized in press releases of his obsessive micromanagement and autocratic leadership style. In one article, Michael Eisner is said to have “been one of the most autocratic, and the best-paid, chief executives in America, a man who has had little patience for anyone questioning his leadership of Walt Disney” (Economist, 2004). It has been noted that “Michael Eisner’s Disney has been a case study in poor corporate governance. Over the years, the board was disproportionately stocked with insiders, professionals who had dealings with the company, people whose children’s or relatives worked at the company, and others who were ill-equipped to exercise oversight over Eisner” (Gross, 2004). In Roy Disney’s resignation letter in November 2003, he listed Michael Eisner’s flaws of leadership. One being Eisner’s “consistent micro-management of everyone around you with the resulting loss of morale throughout the company” as well as “the perception by all our stakeholders – consumers, investors, employees, distributors, and suppliers – that the company is rapacious, soul-less, and always looking for the ‘quick buck’ rather than long-term value which is leading to a loss of public trust” (Disney, 2003). Roy Disney also criticized Eisner’s cutbacks on Disney’s creative talent. Disney also felt that Eisner “failed to establish and build constructive relationships with creative partners, especially Pixar, Miramax, and the cable companies distributing our products” (Disney, 2003) as well as Eisner’s “consistent refusal to establish a clear succession plan” (Disney, 2003). Eisner’s micro-management style is reflected by a 2003 Time Magazine article stating that Disney chief Michael Eisner never “misses the small points. Whether it’s the fixtures in his company hotels, the dialogue in a movie script or little snubs that add up to a feud, not much escapes him” (Fonda, 2003). A The New York Times article states that “according to one former senior Disney executive, program decisions, script decisions – even decisions on which writers might be signed deals – have often had to go through as many as six executives, headed by Mr. Eisner and Mr. Iger. ‘For six people to like the show is never going to happen,’ the former Disney executives said. ‘Michael and Bob make sure their operating executives have no real power’” (Carter, 2004). Walt Disney stated five reasons why Eisner should be ousted: 1.) Eisner has “closed all Feature Animation departments, meaning that Disney will no longer produce any hand-drawn animated films...
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