He wasn’t the greatest, and he did make mistakes, but he did do a pretty good job. Well done, Mr Eisner!

Eisner leaves mixed legacy as Disney chief
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – When Michael Eisner hands over the keys to Disney’s Magic Kingdom on Friday after 21 years of running the media giant, he’ll leave behind a stormy legacy — brilliant early success mixed later with executive turmoil, an operational slump and a shareholder revolt.
But industry experts say that ironically, as Eisner says farewell as Disney’s chief executive officer, the company has begun to return to the double-digit earnings growth that marked his first decade running Disney with late president Frank Wells.
Under new CEO Bob Iger, Disney will continue facing challenges settling issues at its movie studio — including landing a new distribution deal with Pixar Animation Studios. But with a new park in Hong Kong open, and a turnaround at TV broadcaster ABC in progress, Eisner is leaving on a high note.
“His legacy is brilliance, mixed with turmoil,” said Hal Vogel, a veteran Wall Street analyst and money manager who has tracked the media industry for years.
There is no doubt that Eisner’s tenure has been successful. In the 21 years since he joined a then struggling Disney, the company has gone from $1.5 billion in annual revenues to nearly $31 billion today.
The stock price was $1.33 in 1984 and traded at around $24 a share on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Disney has split its shares since 1984, and Disney said $10,000 of its stock 21 years ago would now be worth more than $200,000.
When Eisner ran the company alongside No. 2 executive Frank Wells, it seemed Disney could do no wrong. Along with studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, they reinvigorated Disney’s vaunted film animation group, cranking out movies like “The Lion King.”
The early successes peaked in 1995 when Disney agreed to acquire Capital Cities/ABC, which owned the ABC and ESPN TV networks, in a $19 billion deal. A year earlier, Wells died in a helicopter crash.
Katzenberg left Disney after failing to ascend to Wells’ job. Eisner instead hired Hollywood superagent Michael Ovitz to be president, but he departed in 1996 after clashing with other Disney executives and his former friend, Eisner.
Katzenberg later sued Disney for bonus money and settled for an amount reported to be around $250 million, and Ovitz got a severance package with an estimated value at $140 million.
“After Frank died, you can’t say the company did much of anything that was all that brilliant,” said one former Disney executive who asked to remain unidentified.
Although ESPN has proven highly valuable, ABC stumbled badly until this past year when hit comedy “Desperate Housewives” and drama “Lost” sparked a viewership rebound and higher advertising revenues.
Wall Street viewed Disney as paying too much in 2001 when it agreed to acquire Fox Family Channel from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Ltd. for $5.2 billion, including debt.
The company had been an ambitious player on the Internet, but in 2001, it shuttered its uncompetitive Web portal and took over $800 million in quarterly charges.
Like others, Disney’s theme parks suffered from a tourism slump after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, although they have since rebounded.
The missteps caused Roy Disney, nephew of company founder Walt Disney, to launch a campaign to oust Eisner. The board made many of the changes Roy Disney advocated, although Eisner leaves on his own terms.
Iger still faces issues ahead. ABC’s recent hits need support from new shows like presidential drama “Commander in Chief” to keep ratings momentum going.
And the studio must rejuvenate its Miramax Films specialty division and its animated division, perhaps signing a new distribution agreement with Pixar Animation Studios Inc. after Eisner alienated Pixar CEO Steve Jobs.