Disney's Eisner Vows to Stay Despite Vote

"Michael Eisner must leave now," Gold told the shareholders. "We see today's meeting as a first step toward saving the company … We are seeking real and meaningful change."

Eisner acknowledged that the performance at Disney's ABC network was "disappointing," but he also told the shareholders that Disney has "the management skills and creative talent to continue its growth path."

He had previewed his pitch to shareholders in an interview published Wednesday in the Washington Post.

Eisner told the newspaper Disney is in "fabulous shape." He said that that despite 9/11 and the build-up to war with Iraq, "we maintained a good balance sheet, we slimmed down, we kept the spirits up inside the company. We managed through crisis."

In fact, the company's fortunes have improved over the past year. After several years of decline, the stock price and earnings are rebounding, climbing back to levels seen in the late 1990s.

For the men behind the very public campaign to oust Eisner, the improvements of the past year are unimpressive. Roy Disney and Gold have campaigned for Eisner's resignation since they both quit the board late last year. Disney is the nephew of the company's founder and Gold is his financial adviser.

The two men have said they are unhappy with the company's return for shareholders and place the blame squarely with Eisner. Gold recently told ABCNEWS that "over the last seven or eight years he has underperformed. He chases away creative people. He has no strategic vision and the stock has languished."

This is the message the pair brought to the overflowing crowd of shareholders who gathered at the "Save Disney" counter-meeting held Tuesday across the street from where the Disney company held its official meeting.

Gold and Roy Disney asked shareholders to vote to "withhold" on the Eisner nomination as a signal to the board that it is time for a change at the top. They were counting on the support of more than 16 large pension funds, which own a substantial amount of Disney stock, and were hoping to get at least 30 percent voting "withhold."

Disney is the parent company of ABCNEWS.com.

ABCNEWS' Ramona Schindelheim contributed to this report

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