Michael Eisner Departs Disney Helm After 21 Years

ByABC News
September 30, 2005, 8:53 AM

Sept. 30, 2005 — -- After a colorful and sometimes controversial 21 years heading the Walt Disney Company, Michael Eisner today officially hands off to new CEO Robert Iger.

Under Eisner's tenure, Disney's stock value has soared, and the company's annual revenues grew from $1.5 billion to nearly $31 billion.

"His legacy is brilliance, mixed with turmoil," veteran Wall Street analyst Hal Vogel told Reuters. Vogel is a money manager who has tracked the media industry for years.

Since Eisner became CEO in 1984, Disney has added new theme parks around the world, a cruise ship line, a successful stage play division and several cable channels.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a revival at Disney's famous animation division, with new hits such as "The Lion King," "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast."

In 1995, Disney agreed to acquire the ABC broadcast network, which also included the cable powerhouse ESPN. Disney and ABC are parent companies of ABCNEWS.com.

Recent years have exposed some turmoil, including shareholder feuds, disputes involving Pixar Animation Studios and Miramax Films executives, a post-Sept. 11 slump at the company's theme parks and sagging ratings for the ABC television network.

But some of those problems appear to be on the mend, with dissident shareholders back in the fold, negotiations anticipated to address Disney's relationship with Pixar, a new theme park opened in Hong Kong and ABC launching hit shows such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost."

Eisner joked recently with film and television executives about the turnaround at ABC, according to The Associated Press.

"Just in the nick of time," Eisner reportedly said. "Next week, I couldn't take credit for it."