Disneywar | James B. Stewart

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


Welcome to the fascinating world of Disney and its internal battles as chronicled in James B. Stewart’s book, ‘Disneywar: The Battle for the Magic Kingdom.’ This summary will provide you with an intriguing glimpse into the power struggles and clashes of personalities within the Walt Disney Company. Get ready to witness the rise of Michael Eisner as chairman and CEO, his impact on Disney’s evolution, and the eventual fractures in relationships with key executives like Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy E. Disney. Through ups and downs, the story of Disneywar unveils the consequential decisions that shaped the company’s future and highlights the significance of leadership in the world of entertainment.

The Disney Family Feud

Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, disagreed with Michael Eisner’s leadership style at Walt Disney Company, which he felt had made the company overblown and pompous. Despite attempts to remove him from the board, Roy stood his ground and eventually walked out.

The Transformation of Disney: The Eisner Era

This piece describes the story behind the revitalization of Disney under the leadership of Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. The team revamped Disney’s culture, leading to a cut-throat, fast-paced environment that redefined animation. Eisner, the CEO, initially knew nothing about Disney, but his prowess as a story-teller, combined with Wells’ steadying influence, allowed the company to surpass its competition, dominate box offices, and enter a golden age of animation. However, tensions arose with Katzenberg, Eisner’s creative partner, over compensation and leadership roles, leading to a corporate divorce.

The Disney Power Struggle

This book excerpt details the fierce power struggle that unfolded at Disney in the 1990s. It all began when Jeffrey Katzenberg demanded $60 million from CEO Michael Eisner, triggering a cutthroat culture of survival of the fittest. Eisner’s acquisition of ABC, one of the biggest mergers ever, fueled his pursuit of Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz. Eisner promptly hired Ovitz as President, sparking animosity among senior management. Ovitz negotiated a $90 million settlement with Katzenberg, but when general counsel Litvack and CFO Steve Bollenbach rejected it, Katzenberg sued Disney for as much as $12.5 billion. The public feud between Ovitz and NBC President Don Ohlmeyer led to Ovitz’s firing and a $140 million settlement. Eisner faced criticism, but with a board of supporters, he dismissed institutional investors’ concerns and exercised stock options worth $565 million.

Eisner’s Overreaching

In this book, the rise and fall of Michael Eisner’s career at Disney is chronicled with a focus on his hubris and overreaching decisions. From the firing and replacing of staff to costly and failed projects, the story illustrates how his own lack of integrity eventually led to a loss of support from even his closest allies. Despite successes with distributing Pixar’s animated movies and acquiring the Fox Family cable network, his contentious relationship with Steve Jobs, Disney’s own flops, and rejection of hit TV series Lost and Desperate Housewives ultimately led to a letter-writing campaign and the ousting of Eisner from the Board.

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