Roy E. Disney Dies At 79

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Roy E. Disney, the nephew of animation legend Walt Disney and the architect of a shareholder revolt that led to the ouster of former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner in 2005, died Wednesday at the age of 79.

Disney died at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Calif. after a year-long battle with stomach cancer, the company said in a statement.

Disney's father Roy O. Disney and uncle Walt formed the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in 1923, later renaming it the Walt Disney Co.

Roy E. Disney in 1990

Roy Disney served as vice chairman of the company from 1984 - 2003 and chairman of the Studio's Animation Department. In recent years, he held the title of director emeritus and consultant for the company.

As head of Disney Animation, Disney helped to create such classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.

More recently, Disney was best known for leading a shareholder revolt against former company CEO Michael Eisner, resigning his board seat in 2003 and calling for Eisner's ouster.

That unrest also played a small role in Comcast's decision to launch a $66 billion unsolicited bid for Disney in 2004.  Disney shareholders ultimately rejected the offer as too low.

But Roy Disney's efforts led to shareholders withholding 43% of their votes for Eisner's re-election at the company's 2004 annual meeting. That unprecedented show of non-support led to Eisner being stripped of his chairman's title and he later announced that he would retire as CEO in 2005, a year before his contract expired.

Eisner's successor -- current CEO Robert Iger -- welcomed Roy Disney back to the company after a somewhat shaky start (Disney had first opposed Iger being names CEO), naming him a board member emeritus.

"On behalf of everyone at Disney, we are saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague Roy E. Disney," Iger said in a statement. "He was much more than a valued 56-year Company veteran - Roy's true passion and focus were preserving and building upon the amazing legacy of Disney animation that was started by his father and uncle. Roy's commitment to the art of animation was unparalleled and will always remain his personal legacy and one of his greatest contributions to Disney's past, present and future."

Disney is survived by his wife, Leslie, and four children from his marriage to Patricia Dailey Disney - Tim Disney, Roy Patrick Disney, Abigail Disney, and Susan Disney Lord. He is also survived by 16 grandchildren.

Funeral services will be private, followed by cremation. His ashes will be scattered at sea.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to CISA (California International Sailing Association, www.cisasailing.org) to benefit youth sailing.

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