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by Ken Pellman (archives)
March 8, 2004
Ken recaps a pivotal period in Disney's history.

Kenversations™ - Philly Aftermath

A Different Kind of Company, a Different Kind of Meeting
If anyone ever needed proof that the Walt Disney Company is a different kind of corporation, all they needed to do was consider the annual shareholders meeting.

How many corporations have so much media coverage for their meetings? How many of those meetings have families lined up for hours trying to get a spot inside? How many corporations have people who own just one share or a handful of shares, mainly for sentimental reasons?

This is a corporation that holds a special place in the hearts of not only Americans, but many people around the world. The very name of the company invokes images and feelings in so many people.

The meetings always have people who stand up to complain about details like the temperature inside an attraction at Walt Disney World Resort, or a commercial advertisement that ran on a local ABC affiliate, as well as communist political activists who are angry about the Company having the audacity to make money.

Anaheim's Last Meeting
I'll never forget the only meeting I've been to- the last one held in Anaheim, at The Pond. The crowd was rather riled that day. The nitpickers were complaining about the temperature inside the meeting and about the lighting levels in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. One fellow even got up and starting singing "When You Wish Upon A Star", inserting airplane noises to make his point that Eisner should "do something" about the Disneyland airspace. The commies were complaining about using cheaper labor in other countries and not paying them American-level wages, and others were complaining about the Company taking animals out of their natural habitat and putting them in Animal Kingdom, where they'd be subjected to the horrors of full, well-balanced meals, medical care, and protection from poachers. Eisner explained that the animals being collected were already in captivity.

More importantly, people were upset over things like the tens of millions of dollars in payouts to Michael Ovitz for his brief stint with the Company. Little did they know their Company would soon be doing things like buying a single cable channel for billions of dollars, much of it debt! That made Ovitz's tens of millions seem like chump change.

That was the last time the meeting was held in Anaheim or Orlando. Meetings would be a little more quiet for a while, held in cities where there wasn't such a high concentration of passionate Disney fans.

Heading to Philadelphia
However, this year's meeting was going to be different, and everyone knew it. Yes, the communists and the nitpickers who don't realize what an inappropriate forum it is to air their complaints would still be there, but so would hundreds of shareholders who were fed up with the corporate administration of the Company.

This went way beyond a botched corporate Presidency position.

This year, Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, two men who had been instrumental in bringing in Paramount's Michael Eisner to the corporation almost twenty years ago and saving it from being sold off in pieces, were now leading a diverse group of dissatisfied shareholders determined to make a statement.

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