It hasn't been a supercalifragilistic year for Michael D. Eisner. The 62-year-old Walt Disney Co. (DIS) CEO weathered a hostile takeover attempt in February, and a month later he was stripped of his chairmanship following a 45% no-confidence vote by shareholders. The year ended with a public airing of management missteps in the 1996 firing of President Michael Ovitz. And before Eisner left for the holidays, Disney settled SEC charges that it failed to disclose transactions between the company and its board members from 1999 through 2001. Disney admitted no wrongdoing.
After a yearlong battle with Walt's nephew Roy Disney, Eisner is retiring in 2006, when his contract expires. President Robert A. Iger is the only internal candidate to succeed him -- which "shows how weak a bench Eisner had," according to Greg Taxin, CEO of shareholder advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. Whoever inherits the job will no doubt try to lure back blockbuster maker Pixar Animation Studios (PIXR), whose chairman, Steve P. Jobs, battled with Eisner. Pixar's last film for Disney will be Cars in 2006.
Oddly enough, Eisner's departure comes as Disney appears to be on the mend. After six years of lackluster earnings, profits rose 64% in 2004. The stock climbed 18% over the past year. Still, that only brings it back to 1997 levels. The Head Mouseketeer will be leaving the stage without much applause.