NYC Funds Buck Trend, Back Eisner

March 1, 2004 ( - Bucking what appears to be a growing trend among public pension funds, on Friday, New York City Comptroller William Thompson said the Big Apple's pension funds would support Michael Eisner as Disney chairman/CEO.

Saying Eisner “remains the best choice to ensure the continued growth and success of this company,” Thompson said that the city’s 7.6 million Disney shares would support him – a stance in stark opposition to the concerns expressed by a number of state funds, including North Carolina, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, and Virginia (see  Beleaguered Disney Head Tries to Shore Up Support ).   Officials with the Florida Retirement Fund, which holds 7.3 million Disney shares, are expected to make a decision today.  

The funds’ public pronouncements on the Eisner issue followed the recommendations of two influential shareholder-advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass, Lewis & Co.

For its part, Disney, braced for as much as 30% of shareholders to oppose Eisner, on Friday launched full-page advertisements in major newspapers featuring Mickey Mouse, ESPN, and Kermit the Frog declaring: “Our future is in good hands.”

Not that the opposition is likely to oust Eisner, at least directly.   There are no competing candidates for the 11-member Disney board for the March 3 shareholders meeting in Philadelphia, but a strong signal from shareholders might trigger a call for Eisner to step down, or even a less direct signal about corporate governance (shareholder concerns also revolve around Eisner’s shared title of Chairman and CEO).