Disneywar | James B. Stewart

Summary of: Disneywar: The Battle for the Magic Kingdom
By: James B. Stewart


Welcome to the fascinating world of Disney’s corporate history in ‘Disneywar: The Battle for the Magic Kingdom’ by James B. Stewart. This book summary takes you on a captivating journey through the rise of Michael Eisner as Disney’s CEO to the various internal conflicts and business setbacks he faced. Explore the intricate dynamics between Eisner, Roy E. Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and other key players as they influence Disney’s direction and legacy. Get a rare inside look at how Eisner’s personality and leadership style dramatically affected the company. Uncover the thrilling battles for power, control, and the creative essence of the Disney brand.

Roy vs. Eisner

Roy Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, rebelled against the leadership of Michael Eisner, the chairman, and CEO of Walt Disney Company. On his last day, Roy met with fellow board member John Bryson, who asked him to retire. The board, filled with Eisner’s loyalists, felt he had lost his way. Roy disagreed with their decision and warned Bryson before walking out. Roy believed that Eisner had turned the company into an overblown and pompous entity and had made personnel and judgment errors that had cost the company dearly.

Disney’s Rise and Fall

When Michael Eisner became CEO of Disney, he was initially unfamiliar with the company and its traditions. However, he made significant changes, including replacing the company’s laid-back culture with a cutthroat one. Working alongside his chief creative partner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Eisner’s new management style drove Disney to success, with the animation division experiencing a renaissance. However, tensions would eventually arise between Eisner, Katzenberg, and President Frank Wells, leading to Wells’ death and the departure of Katzenberg. This ultimately led to Eisner’s downfall, and Euro Disney’s financial struggles almost bankrupted the company.

Eisner’s Cutthroat Culture

When Michael Eisner was at the helm of Disney, a cutthroat culture developed, with employees fighting for survival. The competition extended beyond the company’s walls, with Eisner battling with other Hollywood power players, like DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg and NBC’s Don Ohlmeyer. Eisner’s pursuit of Katzenberg’s talents led to the hiring of Michael Ovitz, who quickly became a thorn in Eisner’s side. Ovitz negotiated a $90 million settlement with Katzenberg, which was ultimately rejected, leading Katzenberg to sue for billions. When Ovitz got into a public feud with Ohlmeyer, Eisner did nothing to back him up, leading to his firing and a $140 million settlement. Despite harsh criticism, Eisner remained in power, exercising stock options worth $565 million in 1996.

The Fall of Eisner

The Disney former CEO, Michael Eisner, made a series of unsuccessful decisions in both TV and movie realms, including selling most of the rights to The Sixth Sense, vetoing Survivor, turning down CSI and letting go of Pixar Animation Studios. Eisner also ignored the internal warnings that the Go.com project was a failure, ignored the overpayment in acquiring Fox Family, and was dishonest about his relationship with Jobs and Pixar. Eisner’s failed leadership inspired a campaign led by Roy Disney and his ally Stanley Gold, resulting in Eisner’s fall from grace.

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