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DisneyWar Paperback – March 10, 2006
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Like one of the roller coasters at DisneyLand, Stewart's epic book takes readers through a wild up-and-down ride as it describes Eisner's regime as CEO. The tale begins with Eisner's early successes rejuvenating Disney's live-action movie franchise and theme parks, the kickoff of the modern animation era with blockbuster hits like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, and the cultivation of a highly talented cadre of lieutenants, which reads like a Who's Who of executive talent now dispersed across the Fortune 500: Stephen Bollenbach (Hilton Hotels), Steve Burke (Comcast), Geraldine Laybourne (Oxygen Media), Richard Nanula (Amgen), Joe Roth (Revolution Studios), and so on. Stewart makes clear that Eisner has had a major eye for strong creative content himself, both as a young executive in his pre-Disney years at ABC and at Paramount Pictures and more recently in building partnerships like Disney's extremely lucrative one with Pixar.
Just as he credits Eisner for various Disney successes, though, Stewart assigns blame for the failures, too. The thoroughly researched 534 pages of DisneyWar make clear that his overall verdict on the CEO is negative. Much of the book describes detailed and specific interactions between Eisner and his rivals. Readers interested in the entertainment industry or in the personalities which drive it will not be disappointed. The blow-by-blow accounts of Eisner's feuds with Dreamworks SKG founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was his chief aide for nearly two decades, and Michael Ovitz, the superagent from CAA who had been friends with Eisner for even longer than that, are amazingly detailed. They show Eisner to be creative, funny, and charming when he wants to be--and devious, dishonest, and horribly Machiavellian when he doesn't.
Though dispassionate in his writing, Stewart assembles a withering portrait of Eisner as a grasping, self-centered, manipulative, and ultimately self-destructive executive. He shows how the Disney CEO has consistently undercut his potential successors within the company, in many cases drawing on Eisner's own writings and conversations with board members. He shows how Eisner's erratic attitude towards paying severance to former employees--in some cases being overly stubborn (as with Katzenberg, to whom he had a chance to close out for $90 million, but whom Disney ended up paying $280 million) and in others being shockingly lenient (as with Ovitz, who received a $140 million golden parachute after one relatively ineffective year at the company). He shows the overreach of grandiose projects like Euro Disney, and the missed opportunities like Lord of the Rings, Sopranos, and Survivor, on all of which Disney passed.
In the end, Stewart has returned with DisneyWar to what he does best: drilling into a murky and complex subject, capturing an enormous amount of detail through personal interviews, emails, memos, court records, and other data sources, and then weaving together a rich tapestry of people and events to bring others to the same conclusions he has clearly reached himself. Though some readers might tire of the reams of detail Stewart offers--at certain points, the book reads like a gossip rag, with intricate he-said, she-said accounts of individual meetings--most will enjoy it. Beyond the entertainment value, this book also has serious value to students of corporate governance, as it presents a scathing portrait of Disney's captive board of directors and shows what happens with the lack of proper CEO oversight. --Peter Han --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
But, that being said, a lot of the events are nevrtheless quite fascinating:
It's unbelievable how Eisner burned Ovitz straightaway after hiring him. Just completely hung him out to dry when only weeks before he had been the most powerful man in Hollywood. Brutal and horrible.
The details with Katzenberg were awful too. That must have been the worst deal ever made (next to the Ovitz deal). And Eisner's carping about Roth, Iger and Wells behind their backs? He really comes off as a psycho freak you wouldn't want to work for.
Some of his problems were legitimate though. Katzenberg was equally psycho at least.Read more ›
From what I've read so far, they should be afraid. It's quite a scathing expose. So far, it is proving to be an excellent book. What Walt Disney accomplished through the power of his genius and ability to tap into the genius of others is simply amazing. But this book is a stark revelation of the damage the current management has done to the Disney Company. If you are a Disney fan, I HIGHLY recommend this book.
Though the book could have been trimmed a bit, Mr Stewart presents a thorough account of how the finished Disney product that the reader knows (whether it is "The Lion King", the theme parks, et al) came to be. Why Mr. Eisner should granted such unprecedented access to Mr. Stewart is still unclear to me, for his public image will take a further tumble with the release of this book.
The reporting is impressive, the writing is clear and the behind the history tale is interesting. It is a fun read with the financial details make understandable for the non-MBA reader. A prequel of sorts is "Storming The Magic Kingdom" by John Taylor (1987) which tells the story of the corporate raiders who attempted to take over the Disney Company in the early 1980's.
Stewart's book is a juicy chunk of details involving Eisner and his (in his mind) bit players including Katzenberg, Ovitz, and Roy Disney. Each of these men in their rise within the Disney corporate structure and the chance at the coveted presidency threaten Eisner. A cycle of corporate double-speak and false promises ensues and with each one cost face and money. Michael Ovitz' record severance package, Katzenberg's infamous 2% clause that Eisner disputed and delayed to the tune of $280 million. Ovitz' hiring was among scores of conflicts of interests of which include the offering of a seat on the board to a fundraiser for the Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall. (Eisner wanted her to stop asking the company for money to help pay for it. Eisner himself never personally donated any money for it.)
That none of the characters are infalliable and essentially it comes down to battle of the millionaire's egos is not suprising. It is daunting to learn of Eisner's perception of power. True, he revitalized a dying brand but since then he has allowed pettiness or just plain lack of innovativeness to control his decision making. How else to explain not acquiring Pixar when he had multiple occasions? To pass on various projects such as 'Lord of the Rings'?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stewart has included a cheat sheet of the "cast members" in the front, but It's still a bit of a chore to keep track of all the players, their title and department because... Read morePublished 3 months ago by M. Pope
Good prospective about Michael Eisner and the growth of Disney.Published 4 months ago by Thomas William Hitt
James B. Stewart does a great job telling the story of Michael Eisner's fall at the Walt Disney Company. As a huge Disney fan, I found the book immensely entertaining. Mr. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Keith M. Kolmos
This book, while interesting and quite thorough as best can be pieced together, does have a flaw.
It ends too abruptly. Read more
Fascinating book about Disney and the Michael Eisner. It reads like a novel but at the same time it is very informative.Published 6 months ago by Manuel Cristóbal
I’ll start with the end, go get a copy and read this book!
Many of us have seen “The Lion King”, rode on “The Pirates of the Caribbean”, teared up while watching... Read more