Disney Dissidents Want Eisner Out Earlier Than 2006

Walt Disney Co. (DIS) dissident directors Roy Disney and Stanley Gold Monday said CEO Michael Eisner (search), who last week said he would step down in two years, should be forced to leave by early next year.

Gold and Disney, who late last year had spearheaded a move to oust Eisner, said they would run their own slate of directors at next year's annual meeting if the board did not engage an independent search firm and commit to Eisner stepping down as CEO and as a director when the search ended.

Roy Disney (search), a nephew of the company's founder, and Gold sent their open letter to the company's nine non-employee directors a week before the next board meeting, set for Sept. 20. They called for Eisner, who was stripped of his role as chairman in March after 43 percent of shareholders voted against him, to step down as chief executive by the annual meeting early next year.

Eisner, 62, on Friday said he would step down as chief executive when his contract ends in September 2006, but he has not commented on whether he would keep his board seat or consider again becoming chairman.

Gold and Disney said a two-year transition period would be "catastrophic" for the company and that major candidates would not want the job if Eisner were to become chairman. They said Eisner was trying to maintain the status quo with his announcement, since there would be no handover for two years.

Eisner, who was appointed to the helm of Disney in September 1984 after Gold and Disney helped recruit him, has become the target of intense criticism over recent months as its ABC television network has lagged in the ratings and its share price has sagged.

Shares of Disney rose 16 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $23.32 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).