"I regret Sandy's decision, but I accept it and respect his desire to pursue other ventures, said Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Eisner. Litvack is not leaving Disney entirely; he will take on what the company calls a "nonexclusive part-time exeucitve role" in which he will focus on legal and governmental affairs, among other things.
While Litvack has long been a trusted Eisner confidant -- he joined the company in 1991 as general counsel and was promoted to the vice chairman position last year -- he hasn't been regarded as Eisner's heir apparent. Robert Iger, the company's president and chief operating officer, is currently regarded as the 58-year-old Eisner's likely successor.
Litvack perhaps most notably spearheaded Disney's legal battle with former executive Jeffrey Katzenberg over compensation Katzenberg thought was owed him. That suit, which was the object of rapt attention in Hollywood, was eventually settled. Litvack also is credited for his role in helping Eisner and Disney get through what Eisner described as "the very difficult period following the death of our late president and COO, Frank Wells, in 1994." Wells was killed in a helicopter crash.
Disney shares were down slightly in midafternoon trading Thursday, falling 81 cents to $39.50.