Rebels sue Disney over CEO plans

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The Independent Online

Two Walt Disney dissident shareholders sued the company yesterday, claiming it lied about its much-publicised search for a replacement to the company's embattled chief executive, Michael Eisner, later this year.

Roy Disney, the nephew of the company's founder, Walt, and another former director, Stanley Gold, filed a lawsuit in Delaware accusing Disney's board of "fraud and breach of the duty of disclosure" in relation to the search for someone to take over from Mr Eisner when he retires.

The recruitment process was concluded in March with Disney saying Bob Iger, the chief operating officer and Mr Eisner's chosen successor, was the best person for the job.

According to the suit, the company made no "serious" attempt to consider alternative candidates with "open minds", as Disney officials had promised.

The suit claims the company interviewed only one external candidate. She is believed to be the chief executive of eBay, Meg Whitman. Disney "delayed notifying her of any decision and did little to dissuade her from withdrawing her candidacy", the lawsuit said.

Mr Disney and Mr Gold have been critical of Mr Eisner, leading a shareholder revolt which forced him to agree to give up the role of chairman last year.

Mr Disney and Mr Gold are asking the court to void the re-election of the company's directors at the 2005 shareholder meeting.