The hot seat that Walt Disney Co.'s chairman-CEO Michael Eisner is sitting on just got a little toastier, and just in time for the March 3 annual shareholder meeting.
Eisner, already under fire for issues ranging from the lost Pixar alliance and a hostile takeover bid from Comcast to the resignation of Roy Disney, heads into the Philadelphia meeting having lost the backing of two of the country's largest pension funds and a major shareholder advisory firm. Though he's running unopposed, and his re-election seems imminent, a large "no" vote could force him from the board or strip him of one of his jobs.
Two of Disney's largest shareholders, the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, said Eisner is to blame for the company's financial slide in recent years. A Disney statement defended the company by saying it has "well laid-out its key long-term strategies for achieving attractive double-digit earnings growth, which is reinforced by the strong recent performance of Disney shares."
Advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co., whose clients own some 15% of Disney's shares, is still stinging from Eisner's hiring and quick firing of former talent agent Michael Ovitz in the mid `90s. Ovitz left with a package worth an estimated $100 million. Another firm, Institutional Shareholder Services, whose clients own 30% of Disney's shares, also recommended recently that shareholders vote "no" on Eisner.