Picks and Pans Review: The Keys to the Kingdom
by Kim Masters
In 1999, Forbes magazine rated Michael Eisner the second-highest-paid chief executive officer in America. Between salary, bonus and stock options, the Disney czar carted home $680 million. Does Eisner deserve such a gargantuan paycheck? Not according to Masters in this thoroughly reported and often unflattering portrait.
Keys follows Eisner's climb up the executive ranks at ABC and later Paramount before landing the top spot at Disney in 1984, when the then-$2 billion company consisted of a sleepy movie studio and a group of theme parks. On Eisner's watch, Disney increased its revenues to $23 billion by 1999 and acquired the ABC and ESPN networks, plus strings of hotels, cruise ships and retail stores. Masters, a showbiz writer for TIME and Vanity Fair, contends that Eisner's management pluses (he's always conscious of the bottom line) are offset by his tendency to micromanage, his unwillingness to share credit, his refusal to designate a successor and his many costly mistakes (including hiring and then firing Hollywood power broker Michael Ovitz, who waltzed out with a more than $90 million severance package after 14 months). Much of this is fascinating, but what will keep readers turning the pages is all the juicy movie-star gossip Masters deftly works in, including such tidbits as Steven Spielberg originally wanting to cast Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones and Warren Beatty playing around on then-girlfriend Madonna while they were shooting Dick Tracy. (Morrow, $27.50)
Bottom Line: Will make Eisner squirm in his Mouse trap