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Kenversations™
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by Ken Pellman (archives)
August 26, 2004
Ken asks the question "Is the Walt Disney Company an Evil Corporation?"

Kenversations™
Is The Walt Disney Company An Evil Corporation?

The Walt Disney Company and the Disney Family Are Two Different Entities
Walt Disney liked control. He had an idea of how he wanted things, and he went after that result. So, it had to be painful for him when financial circumstances pressured him and his brother Roy into turning their company into a publicly traded shareholder corporation. It brought all sorts of regulations and outside interference.

There have been no doubt times, such as the most recent annual shareholders meeting, that Michael Eisner has also wished The Walt Disney Company wasn’t answerable to shareholders.

Legally, it doesn’t matter that there is an individual’s name on the company. If it is a publicly traded corporation, that person can lose control. Since Walt Disney and his brother Roy have long since passed away, they aren’t even around to defend their names and keep the Company building up on the same foundation they created for it.

Roy Edward Disney and Diane Disney Miller are two children of the founders of what is now The Walt Disney Company, and had been involved in the Company for many years, but that legally doesn’t matter, which is why Company CEO Michael Eisner can ignore Roy Disney’s opinions, even though Roy’s father was half of the partnership that started the company to begin with.

No, it doesn’t matter legally, but it does matter to many people on a cultural and emotional level, which is one reason Roy and Stan Gold are able to galvanize significant shareholder opposition to the dominant members of current Company governance.

Assuming the enterprise Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney started and helmed for many decades could have survived remaining privately, family owned and not a publicly traded shareholder corporation, I think it is safe to say that things would be different than they are now.

However, the fact remains that The Walt Disney Company is a publicly traded shareholder corporation.

Evil Corporations?
We hear a lot about “evil, greedy corporations? these days, and a lot of juries stick it to “corporations? by awarding astounding judgments in resolving lawsuits filed against corporations.

But what are corporations, really?

They are nothing more than businesses - comprised of individual employees - that have allowed others to invest in them, and, in turn, own a small portion (a share) of the whole company.

Organizations, including corporations, are made up of people. People are flawed. People can be greedy to a fault. People can have evil intentions. People can be incompetent, ignorant, stupid, or simply wrong. Sometimes, such people can do a lot of destructive, unwholesome, or evil things, particularly if others are cooperating with them, whether enthusiastically, or through submission to the chain of command.

Michael Eisner can order Pirates of the Caribbean to be ripped out of Disneyland, but there are a whole lot of people who can ignore his command. They likely wouldn’t, however, because he can have them fired for insubordination, or, if they really feel strongly, they can quit and be replaced by someone who will actually sign the paperwork, issue the necessary funds, and swing the wrecking ball. Eisner could be removed from his position if enough of the ownership of the Company would vote to send him packing. In fact, an unprecedented percentage of the Company ownership voted to do just that at the last shareholder’s meeting, but there were enough shares that didn’t cast votes – which means they automatically went to Eisner’s side – that Eisner avoided removal.

There are plenty of examples in American corporate history of dishonest people or people interested in short-term profits to the detriment of long-term survival, and such people can mess up corporations and do horrible things through the corporations. That is being evil.

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