The Walt Disney Co.’s annual shareholders’ meeting Friday in Minneapolis was a big departure from the raucous exchange at last year’s gathering in Philadelphia, with shareholders overwhelmingly throwing their support behind the media giant’s board of directors, including CEO Michael Eisner.
About 1.7 billion votes -- or 92.2% of Disney’s outstanding shares -- were cast in favor of re-electing Disney’s slate of 12 board members.
Eisner -- who weathered a mini-revolt at last year’s meeting, when 45% of shares voted were withheld -- fared much better this time around. About 1.66 billion shares were voted to approve Eisner’s election to the board, and only 141.9 million (7%) were withheld.
It also helped that Disney has apparently reversed its slide of a few years ago -- it reiterated its guidance of double-digit earnings growth at least until 2007 -- and that its once-troubled ABC broadcast network has enjoyed strong ratings growth.
At last year’s meeting, Disney was fighting off an unsolicited takeover bid from Comcast Corp. (which Comcast withdrew in April), and it was reeling from the poor performance of its operations and its stock price.
But with the rejuvenation of its operations (2004 earnings were up 72%) and the resuscitation of its stock (Disney shares were up 17.4% in 2004 and have risen about 5.4% this year), Eisner felt comfortable enough to point to Disney’s performance during his 20 years at the helm.
At Friday’s meeting, Eisner said that since he began at Disney in 1984, its market capitalization has grown from $2 billion to $60 billion and its revenue has increased from $1.5 billion in 1984 to more than $30 billion.
“Today’s Disney has a management team that is dynamic and deep. Our balance sheet is strong and our unmatched legacy is vibrantly alive and moving forward with new meaning and relevance,” Eisner said.