MICHAEL EISNER Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Michael Eisner Date of birth: March 7, 1942                                             
Michael Eisner was born in Mt. Kisco, New York. His father was a well-to-do             
lawyer and investor. Eisner was raised in his parents' apartment on Park Avenue         
in New York City. Despite the luxurious surroundings, discipline in the Eisner           
household was strict. Eisner's parents required two hours of reading for every           
hour of television watching and strictly rationed the children's consumption of         
TV and movies.                                                                           
Michael Eisner enrolled in Denison University, as a pre-med student, but quickly         
found his true interests ran to English literature and the theater. He got his           
first taste of the entertainment industry with a summer job as a page at NBC             
studios in New York. After graduation in 1964, Michael Eisner returned to New           
York to work as an FCC logging clerk at NBC. Within six weeks, he had moved to           
the Programming Department at CBS, where he was responsible for slotting                 
commercials in the right places in children's programs. Dissatisfied with this           
work, he mailed out hundreds of résumés, and received exactly one response. This         
came from Barry Diller in the programming department of ABC, who lobbied for             
Eisner's hire as Assistant to the National Programming Director at ABC, a post           
Eisner held from 1966 to 1968.                                                           
In 1967, Michael Eisner produced his first television special, Feelin' Groovy at         
Marine World. In 1968 he was promoted to Manager of Specials and Talent, and,           
within a year, became director of program development for the East Coast. In             
this capacity, the young executive was responsible for Saturday morning children's       
programming. Among other projects, he oversaw animated programs based on the             
popular singing groups the Jackson Five and the Osmond Brothers.                         
In 1971, Eisner became ABC's Vice President for Daytime Programming, where he           
promoted the popular serials All My Children, and One Life To Live. In 1975,             
Eisner served ABC as Vice President for Program Planning and Development and as         
Senior Vice President for Prime Time Production and Development in 1976. In             
these posts, he fostered programs such as Happy Days, Welcome Back Kotter,               
Barney Miller, and Starsky and Hutch. During Eisner's years in the programming           
department, ABC had moved from a perennial third place among television networks         
to first place.                                                                         
In 1974, Eisner's former mentor at ABC, Barry Diller, had moved on to become             
Chairman of the Board of Paramount Pictures. In 1976 Diller offered Michael             
Eisner the post of President and Chief Operating Officer of Paramount Pictures.         
At Paramount, Diller and Eisner applied lessons they had learned in network             
television to keep the studio's costs down. The average Paramount production             
during Eisner's tenure cost only $8.5 million to produce, when the industry             
average was $12 million per picture. During this time, Paramount moved from last         
place to first place among the six major studios. In October 1978, half of the           
top ten box office attractions were Paramount films.                                     
Films produced at Paramount during Eisner's reign include: Raiders of the Lost           
Ark, Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Heaven Can Wait, Ordinary People, Terms of           
Endearment, An Officer and a Gentleman, The Elephant Man, Reds, Flashdance,             
Footloose, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Airplane and three installments of         
the Star Trek cycle.                                                                     
In September, 1984, Michael Eisner left Paramount to become Chairman and Chief           
Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. Since the death of Walt Disney in         
1966, the studio had continued to enjoy periodic box office successes, and to           
earn profits from its theme parks and merchandising, but many in the industry           
felt the company was suffering from a lack of direction. Within a few years,             
Eisner transformed the company into the industry leader. In rapid succession,           
the studio turned out a new cycle of animated features such as The Little               
Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. Each proved to be a           
box office blockbuster and a merchandising bonanza.                                     
At the same time, Disney diversified, releasing films for a wider audience               
through its Hollywood Pictures subsidiary, and acquiring independent Miramax to         
produce more offbeat films for the specialized urban market. Films released             
under the Miramax banner included critical and box office hits including Good           
Will Hunting and Shakespeare in Love. A new division, Walt Disney Theatrical,           
produced the enormously successful Broadway shows, Beauty & the Beast, Aida and         
the phenomenally successful stage version of The Lion King. Eisner's reign also         
saw the development of such theme park-related businesses as the Disney Cruise           
Line. As the value of Disney stock soared, market watchers described Eisner as           
the prince who awakened Sleeping Beauty and revived the Magic Kingdom. Since             
Eisner joined Disney, the company's annual revenues have grown from $1.7 billion         
to $25.4 billion, operating income has gone up from $291 million to $4.08               
billion, and its stock price has risen some 30 times.                                   
One of Eisner's closest advisors, Disney Company President Frank Wells, died in         
a helicopter accident in 1994, a grave blow to the Company. When Eisner passed           
over studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg for promotion to the presidency of the             
parent company, Katzenberg resigned, and a private feud between Eisner and               
Katzenberg eventually erupted in a very public lawsuit, costly to the Company in         
both money and negative publicity. More negative publicity followed Eisner's             
decision to hire his friend, the celebrated super-agent Michael Ovitz, to fill           
the post. Ovitz's tenure at Disney was brief, and releasing him from his                 
contract proved another expensive embarrassment for Disney and Eisner.                   
In 1995, Michael Eisner announced the biggest coup of his career, Disney's               
acquisition of Capital Cities, owners of Eisner's old employer, the ABC                 
television network. The network brought with it valuable cable television               
channels, including ESPN, The History Channel, Lifetime, A&E and E! Eisner was           
now the single most powerful figure in the international communications industry.       
The merger set off a wave of consolidation in the entertainment and information         
industries, with Time Warner acquired by America Online, and CBS by Viacom.             
Within a few years however, the acquisition of the television network came to be         
seen as a drain on the Disney Company's resources, and criticism of Eisner               
As the decade ended, Disney turned from traditional pen-and-ink animation to             
embrace the new technology of computer animation. Through a strategic                   
partnership with the innovative Pixar, led by Apple founder Steve Jobs, Disney           
developed and released such hits as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo.         
When Jobs chose not to renew Pixar's contract with Disney, major shareholders,           
including Walt Disney's nephew Roy Disney, went public with their complaints,           
and at the March 2004 stockholders' meeting in Philadelphia, there was a                 
widespread demand for a change in leadership.                                           
In 2004, Michael Esiner relinquished the post of Chairman. He stepped down as           
Chief Executive Officer in October, 2005. In his 21 years of Disney, Michael             
Eisner had transformed a film and theme park company with $3 billion in                 
enterprise value into an international multimedia colossus valued at $60 billion.His     
record as a hit-maker and dominant figure in the American entertainment industry         
remains unparalleled.                                                                   
Since leaving Disney, Michael Eisner has founded The Tornante Company (the name         
comes from the Italian for "hairpin turn") to invest in and develop companies in         
the media and entertainment sector. Tornante holdings range from Team Baby               
Entertainment and the Internet television company Veoh Network, to the Topps             
bubblegum and trading card company. Michael Eisner also hosts his own business           
and entertainment interview program, Conversations With Michael Eisner on the           
CNBC television network.