1. Disney's Lesser EvilNot that anyone asked us, but we at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab were a little surprised that Disney's board decided to mimic the Miss America pageant's policies for choosing replacements: When one crowned head is publicly embattled -- for a scandal or just simple incompetence -- they just wheel in the first runner-up. It makes sense on one level. After all, what's the difference? Otherwise, though, we're a little hard-pressed to explain why Disney's board chose former Sen. George Mitchell to succeed Michael Eisner as chairman. That move, of course, came in response to the unprecedented no-confidence vote on Eisner. As Disney announced at the close of its 5 1/2-hour shareholder meeting Wednesday, 43% of voting shareholders opposed re-electing Eisner to Disney's board. So, addressing one of investors' concerns about Eisner -- that he wielded too much power as both chairman and CEO -- the board took away one of those posts and handed it to Mitchell, its lead independent director. That sounds like a good idea, except for one teeny-tiny thing: Among the objects of shareholder ire Wednesday, Mitchell was the second most popular target. Symbolic of a board perceived to be independent by definition but not in spirit, Mitchell was graced with a 24% "withhold" vote. Now, let's not let Eisner's spectacular flight into the annals of shareholder disaffection overshadow Mitchell's remarkable achievement. Yes, 24% is nothing to sneeze at. Think back, for example, to last May, when shareholders of AOL Time Warner (since renamed Time Warner ( TWX))
|Unpopularity Contest |
Mitchell tails Eisner by a hair
Shareholders, you'll remember, had already chased Case's collaborator, Jerry Levin, from the company. And Case had already stepped down from his chairman post at the new company. So how many AOL Time Warner shareholders withheld their votes for Case? 22%. Yes. Mitchell is even less popular than Case. And for that, he gets a promotion! "We are aware that some voted for an immediate change in management and in the board," Disney's board said Wednesday. "However, taking all of these factors into account, we believe the action we have taken today is in the best long-term interest of the shareholders of the company." "Best long-term interest" doesn't quite capture what's going on, we think. Instead, the episode reminds us of how we feel most every Election Day: Forced to choose among a bunch of losers, who irritates us least?