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Alex Stroup, Editor

SaveMichaelEisner.com

Unexpected Web site defends Michael Eisner

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
by Lani Teshima, staff editor

Gary Nowak, a TV-commercial producer from Bakersfield, California, is like a lot of Disney fans. He and his wife have raised three daughters in a life filled with Disney memories and trips to Disneyland.

“My best Disneyland memory was being 5 years old and exiting Pirates of the Caribbean and asking my dad how they could keep the fire from burning the whole ride down,” Nowak said. “He tried to explain it but to no avail, that was probably the moment when my life long fascination with how Disney works began.”

Thus it might come as a shock to many when they discover that Nowak is the founder of SaveMichaelEisner.com, a Web site devoted to promoting the retention of Michael Eisner as the head of the Walt Disney Company.

Why, when so many Disney fans have embraced Roy Disney and Stanley Gold's Save Disney campaign, did Nowak take what some may perceive to be an extremely polar stance? “The worst thing that could happen to Disney is to be consumed by a larger company that doesn't create, but merely manages,” he said, referring to the recent takeover bid by cable TV giant Comcast.

Is your site “for real”—that is, is it meant as a parody site?

I do enjoy poking fun at Comcast and Roy Disney, but I am serious in supporting Michael Eisner. In the beginning, I think a lot of Roy Disney supporters came to the site thinking it would lampoon Michael Eisner, but when they started reading the content, they were appalled at the heresy of someone refuting their leader.

Why did you create this site?

Too many Disney news and fan sites were becoming excessive in mirroring the SaveDisney.com mean-spirited attack on Michael Eisner. Having an opinion is fine but if a Web site is claiming to be a Disney news provider, there should be an obligation to report objectively. I also believe someone needed to point out the worst consequence of forcing Michael Eisner to step down prematurely: a looming Comcast takeover.

What have the responses been so far? You've published the positive quotes on your site, but do you get any negative feedback? What sorts of feedback do you get?

Eighty percent of the feedback has been very positive. The rest has been mostly constructive criticism mirroring the SaveDisney campaign. What amazes me is the time and effort put into these lengthy emails trying to sway my pro-Michael Eisner stance; there's a lot of conviction out there.

I've also noticed a lot more people in the Disney forums voicing their support of Michael Eisner and referring back to my Web site for topics of discussion. A month ago if anyone praised Michael Eisner in a message board, they were immediately chastised.

What is it you feel Michael Eisner needs to be saved from? The shareholders? The Disney consumers? Park guests? Roy Disney/Stanley Gold?

Michael Eisner needs to be saved from the angry mob storming the castle with torches and pitchforks chanting, “the sky is falling.”

What would you like to see happen to Michael Eisner?

I would like to see Michael Eisner finish out his contract as CEO.

What do you think about Eisner's 43 percent no-confidence vote?

I think that vote was based on emotion and not common sense.

Can you comment on Michael Eisner's Larry King interview, and his answers (or lack thereof)?

Not his best interview. Who knows? Maybe he had jet lag, maybe he ate a bad burrito. You can't base everything on someone having an off night. In contrast, I think he handled the shareholders meeting exceptionally well.

Is Eisner aware of your Web site's existence?

I would imagine someone mentioning it by now, but I don't know for certain.

Do you have a position on the current board members?

Neutral.

Do you have a position on Mitchell being appointed chair?

I think it was a necessary and good move. I think it will help free up Michael Eisner's time to concentrate on the task of being CEO and running the company.

Do you feel Eisner should resign in 2006 at the end of his contract, or should he stay on after that?

I don't think you could get a stronger wake up call as CEO than the one given on March 3rd. These next two years will form the Eisner legacy and how he wants to be remembered. He needs to set the company on a clear course, address the shareholder concerns, groom a successor, and even forgo salary. Just do it for the love of the company.

Michael Eisner needs to go out with a bang and leave a long lasting good impression.

How do you feel about the Save Disney campaign, and the efforts of Roy Disney and Stanley Gold?

I feel the Save Disney campaign has made the company vulnerable to a Comcast Cable takeover.

Diane Miller, Walt Disney's surviving daughter, said it best in a recent interview, where she called Roy's campaign “vicious and personal.” She went on to say, “Roy's move was ill-timed, and it helped put the company in play. It showed there is weakness and discord at the top of the company. Roy loves the company as much as I do, and he wants to see it remain independent too. But what he has done has put it in jeopardy.”


Nowak's SaveMichaelEisner.com Web site is definitely worth a look. The site includes biting commentary on a number of Disney issues, such as the justification of the layoffs at Feature Animation stemming from bad movie projects, Pixar, Roy Disney/Stanley Gold, and Comcast. Nowak also provides links to such interesting articles as “Disney Sinergy,” a blistering article about Roy Disney by Forbes magazine (Nowak prefaces the link with, “Maybe they're not as wholesome as you think”).

Nowak and his wife recently learned that they are expecting a fourth daughter, and said, “We all look forward to reliving those magical first trips to Disneyland and experiencing again the joy and excitement as little ones meet Donald Duck for the first time or get kissed on the head by Cinderella or light up at seeing their first fireworks display.

“Disney is a big part of the American Experience for many families and it's something that should continue on for generations to come. The worst thing that could happen to Disney is to be consumed by a larger company that doesn't create but merely manages. I support Michael Eisner because he has done great things for the company and above all he has stayed the course. Michael Eisner is a fighter and as long as he's at the helm, Disney will remain independent. CEOs, like most humans, can make mistakes, but look at the overall success.”


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lani here.


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