The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) Board of Directors Friday announced they raised the company's annual cash dividend by 12.5 percent over last year to 27 cents per share.

The dividend is payable Jan. 6, 2006, to shareholders of record at the close of business Dec. 12, 2005.

The company also said the board elected John E. Pepper, Jr., former chairman and chief executive of Procter & Gamble (PG) and Orin C. Smith, former president and CEO of Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) as new independent directors, effective Jan. 1, 2006.

Smith also serves on the board of directors of the non- profit Conservation International, which received grants of more than $400,000 from Disney.

The Disney board said it determined the grants did not impair Smith's independence as a director under the company's Corporate Governance Guidelines.

The Disney board unanimously requested that George Mitchell stay on as director and chairman through December 2006 until a successor is named.

Mitchell had planned to retire following Disney's 2006 annual meeting, but agreed to stand for reelection at the annual meeting.