Michael Eisner has told Walt Disney Co. (search) directors that company president Robert Iger is his "preferred choice" to succeed him as chief executive of the media giant, according to a newspaper report published Sunday.

Eisner told board members Iger "would be an excellent guardian of the Disney assets," he said in an interview last week with the Los Angeles Times. "There's nobody," Eisner said, "who has a better education and training to do that job."

The question of who would succeed Eisner has grown more critical during an ongoing campaign against his leadership by former directors Roy E. Disney and Stanley Gold. At the company's annual meeting in March, shareholders withheld 45 percent of their votes for Eisner.

But despite the infighting, which stripped Eisner of his chairman title, it's unclear when he would leave the company. Eisner's contract expires in 2006, but it could be extended.

Iger, whose contract expires in September 2005, has recently met with investors and executives and told the Times he would like the top job.

"I have a right to be taken seriously. I feel I know the company well. I have the knowledge," he said. "There comes a time when it's appropriate to say, 'Hey, this is a job I'm interested in.'"

Eisner has not always supported Iger so strongly, but the two have been working more closely after Iger defended Eisner and the company following criticism at the March meeting.

"We are clearly now much more partners than in the past," Eisner said.