Disney's magic man earns pounds 1m pay increase

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The Independent Online
The Magic Kingdom has again waved its wand on Michael Eisner, the chairman of the Walt Disney Company.

The genius overseeing Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck has been given a pounds 1m pay rise. This follows recent news that he cashed in a tranche of eight-year-old Disney stock options worth more than pounds 300m - a landmark in American corporate history.

Mr Eisner, 55, sees his annual salary boosted to pounds 6.6m, which is his handsome reward for guiding the firm through a very successful year.

During the past 12 months, Disney stock has risen from pounds 42 to pounds 60. The once-troubled company has had its best year. The films division has produced hits such as Hercules and there have been similar success stories in cable television and theme parks.

Under the autocratic control of Mr Eisner, Disney has become an entertainment giant over the past ten years. He has been described as "Disney's biggest asset next to Mickey Mouse".

Disney lured Mr Eisner away from Paramount in 1984 when Disney was in deep trouble after a string of bad films and bad debts. He took a modest salary in Hollywood because of the all-important share options.

Taking the job on a performance-related basis paid off and since joining his earnings total pounds 660m.

In April 1994 Mr Eisner assumed complete management control of Walt Disney after Frank Wells, who had run the entertainment group with him for almost a decade, was killed in a helicopter crash. Three months later Mr Einser had a quadruple heart bypass operation.

In November of this year, Mr Eisner was threatened with a lawsuit which would have laid bare studio accounts. Jeffrey Katzenberg, a workaholic and founder of the new Dreamworks studio, filed the lawsuit against Disney, his old employer. He claimed he was owed vast sums for producing the $700m hit, The Lion King.

The dispute turned personal when Mr Eisner refused to promote him despite 10 years of loyal and lucrative service. The feud ended in a secret deal.