The Courier-News from Bridgewater, New Jersey on February 12, 2004 · Page 14
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The Courier-News from Bridgewater, New Jersey · Page 14

Bridgewater, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Page 14
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A-14 THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2004 COURIER NEWS Roberts vs. Eisner: Clash of very different media titans By son sura The Associated Press NEW YORK It's not just Comcast vs. Disney. It's also Roberts vs. Eisner. As media moguls, the heads of Comcast Corp. and The Walt Disney Co. could hardly be more different. Brian Roberts is a soft-spoken scion of a family business who recently entered the realm of media big shots; Michael Eisner is an entrenched CEO who is under fire for a combative management style and a generous payout to a Hollywood buddy. Just 44 years old, Roberts has quickly become one of the CEOs to watch in the media world. Two years ago, he pulled off a deal to buy AT&T Corp.'s cable systems, vaulting his Philadelphia-based company to the top spot in the cable industry. Last year he struck again, reaching a deal to sell Comcast's majority stake in the shopping channel QVC Inc. for $7.9 billion to one of the sawiest dealmakers in the media industry, John Malone of Liberty Media Corp. Still, Roberts remained below the public radar, taking a brass-tacks approach to running his business and maintaining a modest personal style that bore no relation to the swashbuckling personas of past media moguls such as Ted TUrner, or even more recently Jean-Marie Messier ofVivendi Universal or Bob Pittman of AOL Last summer, after the QVC deal was announced, Roberts quietly made it known that Comcast was interested in getting much deeper into the "content" business media-speak for movies, TV and other programming but he was coy about his plans. Now, with an in-your-face challenge to Michael Eisner's 20-year reign at the top of Disney, there is little doubt about the extent of Roberts' ambitions. Eisner is already facing a revolt from former board members Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Disney founder Walt Disney, and Stanley E. Gold about his performance and lack of a succession plan. Eisner is 61 years old. Disney (coH From Page A-1 A Disney-Comcast combination would eclipse Time Warner as the world's biggest media company. The offer comes at a vulnerable time for Disney. The boardroom has been in turmoil over Disney chief Michael Eisner's leadership and the collapse of talks to extend the company's lucrative deal with Pixar Animation Studios, which created such blockbuster hits as "Toy Story" and 'Tinding Nemo." Disney is also suffering from lagging performances at key businesses such as ABC. The deal could mean the end of the 20-year career of Eisner, who is fending off criticism from former board members Roy E. Disney, the nephew ofDisneyfounderWaltDis-ney, and Stanley E Gold about his performance and lack of a succession plan. Comcast said Eisner declined earlier this week to discuss a possible merger. The bid was initially valued at $54 billion, but investors bid up the price of Disney stock beyond the Comcast offer a signal that Comcast would have to sweeten its offer to be successful. Comcast made the announcement just as Disney was to start two days of meetings with analysts at its flagship Walt Disney World theme park and hours before Disney was to announce strong first-quarter earnings. As if to answer the bid, Disney released its first-quarter earnings hours sooner than originally planned. The earnings easily beat analysts' expectations and showed the company was firmly on a turnaround that would see 30 percent earnings growth this year and W, W ? : " ' 1 , . ' i ' 1 V v. i .. V I WW UnitedTrust is now part of PNC. So what's in it for you? How about a $25 Target GiftCard and a chance to win $100,000 toward your dreams? You get a lot more than you'd expect when you open a PNC Bank or UnitedTrust checking account. There's free online banking and bill payment, free access to your account at over 3600 PNC ATMs, and 247 customer service. You'll also receive a $25 Target GiftCard as a thank you when you get a free check card with your new checking account. And, right now, you can enter to win $100,000 toward your kid's education, your retirement or whatever you want in our "Opportunity of a Lifetime" Sweepstakes. So come in and tajk with us... For more information call 877-CALL-PNC or visit pncbank.comwelcome b UnitedTrust PNCBATSK No purchase or transaction necessary to enter or to win. Sweepstakes entries must be received by 43004. See branch for official rules and details. Residents of NY and FL are not eligible to participate in the sweepstakes. Target offer valid thru 43004. Offers may be modified or discontinued at any time without prior notice and may vary by market. The Bullseye Design and Target are registered trademarks of Target Brands, Inc. All rights reserved. Target is not a participating partner in or sponsor of this offer. Members FDIC. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen, right, points to CEO Brian Roberts, far left, and Stephen Burke, head of the company's cable division, after a news conference Wednesday in New York. double-digit growth until at least 2007, Eisner said. Eisner made a brief reference to the bid at the beginning of a conference call to discuss the earnings, saying the board had asked Disney's management and advisers "to provide an in-depth analysis of the proposal to enable the board to respond appropriately." Analysts said the Disney-Comcast combination made sense, but questioned whether Comcast would be able to sufficiently sweeten the pot They also were not surprised that Comcast, which has access to cable subscribers, would be interested in Disney, with its visible brand and roster of top-rated cable channels. But they were taken off guard by the timing. Disney's stock, which has lagged over the past six years or so, has risen sharply over the past year and earnings have also climbed on the strength of Disney's film slate and a turnaround at its theme parks. "It's going for the jugular," said Paul Kim, senior media analyst at Tradition Asiel Securities. Kim also said Comcast is basically a cable company, and might be biting off more than it can chew. "I think they underestimate the complexity of being a broad-based media company," he said. Disney snares shot up $3.44, or Hpercent, to $27.35 inheavy trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Comcast tumbled $2.69, or 8 percent, to $31.24. Comcast has several holdings in media content, but has made no secret of its ambitions to acquire more. It holds majority stakes in the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers; Comcast SportsNet; E! Entertainment Television; the Golf Channel; and Outdoor Life Network. Parade float kills Disney World worker LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) A costumed Disney World employee was run over and killed by a float during a Wednesday afternoon parade at the Magic Kingdom. The death occurred in a backstage area near the Splash Mountain ride, said Jim Solomons, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Disney spokeswoman Rena Langley said Javier Cruz, 38, of Orlando was about to enter the park when he was hit, and she wasn't sure if any visitors witnessed what happened. She said Cruz had worked at the park since 1995 and was the Pluto character in the parade. Sheriff's spokesman Carlos Torres said the investigation showed the death was accidental. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also was investigating. In 1999, a worker in the loading area of the Skyway ride fell to his death, and OSHA fined the park $4,500 for what it called a serious safety violation. The ride was closed later that year. r . t:...t.i,ki i UIIUJ i ,'tJtSDisiiculu w - i r 1 rswJt A Disneyland celebrated its 48th birthday July 17, 2003, in Anaheim, Calif. Cable TV giant Comcast proposed Wednesday to buy The Walt Disney Co. Disney milestones A timeline of key events in the history of The Walt Disney Co.: 1923 Walt Disney and brother Roy 0. Disney open Disney Brothers Studio in Hollywood. 1928 "Steamboat Willie-starring Mickey Mouse, debuts at New York's Colony Theatre. 1937 Disney Studio produces its first feature film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." 1940 t Disney brothers take the company public. 1955 Disneyland theme park opens in Anaheim. 1966 Walt Disney dies. Roy becomes chairman. 1971 Walt Disney World theme park opens in Florida. Roy Disney dies. 1980 Ron Miller, Walt Disney's son-in-law, becomes president of the company. 1982 EPCOTCentertheme park opens in Florida. 1 984 Roy E. Disney, Waifs nephew and son of Roy 0., resigns from the board to spearhead an effort to prevent a corporate takeover, He is instrumental in bringing ; Michael Eisner and Frank Wells to ; run the company, taking over from Miller 1984 Roy E. Disney named chairman of Walt Disney Animation. Tokyo Disneyland opens. 1986 Company changes name to The Walt Disney Co. 1989 Company launches Disney-MGM Studios. 1991 Disney partners with Pixar Animation Studios to produce computer-animated films. 1992 Disneyland Paris opens. 1996 Company acquires Capital CitiesABC, owner of the ABC television network. . 2001 Downtown Disney and Disney'sCalifomiaAdventuretheme ; park open in Anaheim. 2003 Roy E. Disney and fel- ; low board member Stanley Gold resign and begin public campaign to oust Eisner, saying the company's stock has underperformed under him for nearly a decade. Jan. 30, 2004 Pixar an- ; nounces an end to its wildly successful partnership with Disney after protracted talks to renew their contract collapse over profit sharing and , copyright disputes. Callers From Page A-1 One of the people who followed the redial directions was a retired Bridgewater insurance executive, who'd written McGreevey to voice his opinions about the effectiveness of recent auto insurance reforms. He asked not to be identified. The erroneous phone number was contained in a Dec. 4, 2003, reply letter he received from the governor's office. "I wrote him on Dec. 21 and suggested that he should call the number," he said. "It's possible it was a transposed number." The big oops was due to a misplaced "9" that was supposed to be a "5" in the toll-free number, Melody said. Both Melody and Department of Insurance and Banking spokeswoman Ellen Lovejoy said the correct number is (800) 652-2471. A call to that number confirmed it is for the state Insurance Department. Apology letters started being sent out on Friday, with 50 going immediately to people who had written the governor. The original letter also highlighted other consumer reforms such as creating the state "do not call" list for telemarketers and new protections for cable TV customers. Another 5,800 letters of apology were sent to a broader list of people who regularly communicate with the governor's office or receive mailings, Melody said. The Bridgewater resident who wrote to McGreevey's office said he hadn't received the letter of apology as of Wednesday, but that the explanation is satisfactory. U Larry Higgs can be reached at (908) 707-3134 .

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