Vol. 1, Issue 30, December 9, 2003
Mickey Mouse Leaves Disney
In a further sign of tension at the top of one of the nation's media giants, Walt Disney Co icon and executive vice president Mickey Mouse stepped down from the board of directors and, in a scathing letter, called on chairman and chief executive Michael Eisner to resign.
"This has been the hardest decision I've ever made," Mickey wrote to Eisner. "But your egregious mismanagement has left me with no choice.
The surprising announcement follows the departure of the last family member active in the company, Roy E. Disney. It is the first time that the company, founded in the 1920s by Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, has been without a member of the Disney family or an anthropomorphic rodent, although two talking bears remain on the board.
Mickey's departure comes after years of hotly contested battles with the Disney public relations machine, which has been both relentlessly marketing Mickey's image and pushing him to become "edgier" in order to broaden his appeal.
"It has gotten completely out of hand. They wanted me to start a fight outside a nightclub to bolster my "street cred,"" said Mickey. "Are they out of their minds? I couldn't earn street cred if I massacred an entire city."
Mickey has allied with ousted board member Roy Disney to call for Eisner's resignation in the past, but the pair was never able to sway a majority of the board.
"It's the bears," confessed Disney insider Ken Miradi in an anonymous interview. "They round out Eisner's majority, and they are completely in thrall to their stomachs. Eisner always brings lots of candy bars to meetings."
The board's presiding director, former Senator George Mitchell, said yesterday he regretted Mickey's actions and confirmed that the company plans to continue using his image to promote Disney's various assets.
"We have just renewed a long-term contract with Minnie, who fortunately looks identical to Mickey without her makeup and bows, to represent the Disney brand well into the next century."
Eisner is credited with transforming Disney from a producer of mediocre films and caretaker of two theme parks in 1984 into a media giant, but he has taken heat for what critics see as micromanaging leadership style.
Detractors also accuse him of presiding over a "brain drain" that saw top executives leave the company over the past 10 years, including former studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg; Donald Duck, who now heads the Hilton Corp.; and most recently Goofy, who left last year to head Gap Inc.
"I've tried for a long time to make this work," said Mickey. "But the truth is, I haven't had a decent movie role since 1940. It's time to move on."