Case Study

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Eisner's Mousetrap Disney's CEO says the company has a lot of varied problems he can fix. But what if the real issue is something he can't face? By Marc Gunther Reporter Associate Carol Vinzant September 6, 1999 FORTUNE Magazine) – Michael Eisner, the famously hands-on CEO of Walt Disney, is up to his old tricks. Last night he screened a rough cut of Dinosaurs, Disney's big animated movie for next summer; he loved the story but complained that some jokes were stale. Today he's holding a four-hour brainstorming session about Mickey Mouse, looking for ways to keep the 71-year-old rodent relevant. (One idea: a skateboarding Mickey.) Later, he'll watch Peter Jennings' newscast on Disney-owned ABC and surf the Internet to see how the…show more content…
There's no quick fix in sight either. Tarzan, the $160 million summer blockbuster, won't have much impact on earnings; the movie cost too much to make and isn't selling enough T-shirts and toys because the market's glutted with Star Wars stuff. That's one of the scary things about today's Disney: The company has grown so big and its problems are so far-reaching--ranging from the phenomenon of "age compression" to the explosion of media choices--that they can't be fixed by a couple of hit movies or TV shows or more Disney stores. The other scary thing is this: Disney seems less able than ever to cope with adversity. That's because Eisner, for all his creativity and charisma and grand plans, presides over an insular--some say arrogant--corporate culture where decision-making is hierarchical, centralized, and slow. It's an utter mismatch for the Internet age. "This isn't Mickey's house anymore," says a former Disney insider. "It's a multibillion-dollar company." Eisner does have a plan. He is cutting costs and reengineering a company that got bloated with success. He's making overseas growth a top priority. He wants Disney to be an Internet giant, taking on Yahoo and America Online. And, yes, he'll keep on tweaking theme park rides and screening ABC pilots and driving subordinates up the wall with his meddling, because he fervently believes that if you demand high quality and develop synergy, financial results will

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