Michael Eisner and Barry Diller at a Forbes "MEET" event, 2006

Michael Eisner and Barry Diller at a Forbes "MEET" event, 2006

The former Disney CEO offers a personal look at some of America’s most successful business collaborations – including his own with the late Frank Wells.


  • Michael Eisner Founder of the Tornante Company, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, co-author of "Working Together" with Aaron Cohen.


  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I’m Diane Rehm. Michael Eisner has had his share of failed business partnerships. The former Disney CEO once lamented, it's rare to find a business partner who is selfless. If you're lucky, it happens once in a lifetime. For him, that partner was Frank Wells. The two men worked as a team to transform Disney from a film and theme park company into a global media empire. In a new book, Michael Eisner examines some of the most enduring business partnerships of our time and what makes them tick. His new book is titled "Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed." Michael Eisner joins me in the studio and we'll be taking your calls throughout the hour. You're always an important part of the program, so join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. You can join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, it's good to have you here.

  • 11:08:28

    MR. MICHAEL EISNERGood morning. Thank you for inviting me.

  • 11:08:29

    REHMI know that there have been lots of questions about whether you're ready to make any sort of announcement about a partnership with the Tribune Company.

  • 11:08:45

    EISNERNo. It seems that rumors fly when you make an investment. I just made an investment in the debt of the Tribune Company. I -- one of the partnerships I actually profile in the book is an investment partnership by the name of Angelo Gordon and they own a lot of debt at the Tribune Company and they understand the Tribune Company and I learned about it from them and other people. And I just acquired some of the debt as the company was over leveraged. Assuming that at some point, it was going to come out of bankruptcy, it's a great company with great assets. And somebody put one and one together and it didn't add up to two. The next thing I know, I'm being rumored to do all sorts of things. I'm happy to advise them I'd love to see the company do well. There's been no conversations otherwise.

  • 11:09:45

    REHMSo you would have no intention whatsoever of becoming part of the Tribune Company or heading it up, considering the purchase of the debt that you've just made?

  • 11:10:06

    EISNERMy only intentions now is from the sidelines watching what happens with the company and they've been doing pretty well, actually, in the last year. And I’m simply watching the negotiations go on between the debt holders, bankruptcy judges and people like that and down the line, if they ask me who I would recommend, I could give them advice. I know, I read the L.A. Times daily...

  • 11:10:33

    REHMIf they were to ask you to lead the company or become part of the company, would you be interested?

  • 11:10:43

    EISNERWell, now I know I'm in Washington. This has all of sudden become a political conversation and I'm not running for president, let me put that away.

  • 11:10:52

    REHMI understand that.

  • 11:10:54

    EISNERI have no idea what I'm doing. I'm -- I have a lot of things going on. I doubt strongly that I'll be moving to Chicago. That seems very unlikely.

  • 11:11:02

    REHMBut it's still sort of out there of interest.

  • 11:11:09

    EISNERWell, the companies have interest. I don't have think I really am of either interest myself in running that kind of company or I'm not sure that the people that own the company have an interest in me. There's been no conversation. I don't eliminate any possibility of anything, but right now, I'm so involved in so many other things. It's such speculation that I really -- I don't want to end up saying something that's gonna affect the company or not affect the company. They're doing what they do.

  • 11:11:47

    REHMMichael Eisner, his new book is titled "Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed." Any thoughts on the current state of Disney owned ABC News, in light of the resignation of David Westin?

  • 11:12:08

    EISNERNo, I think that the entire news world, the information world, the digital world is evolving very quickly. I don't think you tie that directly to the head of ABC News staying or not staying. The Disney Company and CBS and CNN and every other company, public radio, they're -- they gotta look at how they deal with commodities, you know, news is a commodity. Stock quotes are a commodity, brands are a -- commodities, like yours, television shows, movies, those kinds of things are not a commodity. And in today's world, things are changing now with lightning speed. They evolved over time, over the last decade and the next two years, I think you'll see major changes.

  • 11:13:02

    REHMDo you think that it's moving even more quickly than you imagined it would?

  • 11:13:11

    EISNERWell, I don't know if it's moving quickly than I imagined it would, it is certainly moving more quickly than it was two years ago. The introduction of the iPad, the introduction of all the social networks, gaming networks, it's taken on a life of its own. And if you ask my children or anybody in the next generation what time it is, they're not gonna look at a watch. They don't wear a watch, they look at their -- you know, their Blackberry or whatever and you just grow that thought to newspapers and all sorts of other pieces of information and it's a different world. It just is. I think it's better, but for the people that are used to the past, the past is always better. Nostalgia is always better. I just don't think that's probably the case.

  • 11:14:09

    REHMYou know, it's an interesting question how to meld or blend the past with the present to keep those who are just on the edge of the past happy with what's happening in the future, how it's going forward.

  • 11:14:34

    EISNERI'm not sure that's possible. I'm sure when the Guttenberg Press came, a lot of story tellers around campfires were not happy that you can now read a book. It's -- as big a change as that was, which changed culture completely, so it is as big a change today. And everybody is not gonna end up being happier, but information is going to be more distributed, more widely to the entire world. And those people that are dealing in unique projects, whether it's a book, anything of the mind, movie, Broadway play, fine art are going to be advantaged as they've always been because that's one of a kind. And one of a kind has exclusivity and uniqueness that you could never have when you have a commodity.

  • 11:15:23

    REHMThere was as you well know a situation nearby in rural Virginia where the Disney Corporation wanted to bring in a very large center for entertainment, for pleasure, for rides, for everything imaginable and those who live in that Virginia area wanted that land preserved so that those that wanted to hold onto the past were not willing to yield to the fortunes that the future possibly presented. How did you feel about that?

  • 11:16:21

    EISNERIt's hard to believe more than a decade later, I'm talking about Disney's America, but it was a public relations situation. Disney was not doing any of the things, really, that you were just relating, nor was it a place that is sacred, as a matter-of-fact on that very location is now a big shopping center which is much more disturbing than Disney's America ever would have been. It just -- what's interesting -- 'cause Disney felt, we felt, that we could bring to Washington a information and recreation area that educated and entertained millions of Americans who come to Washington about the political process in a very intelligent way. It was misinterpreted as a Disneyland. Historians became upset with the fact that history may be told by somebody other than them and so there were some very famous historians who lost track of the right that anybody could tell history. It wasn't just, you know, a ivy league professor and because it was in the backyard, close to the backyard, of people that have beautiful estates and close to a famous Civil War battlefield, the public relations efforts on the Disney Company were not well done. And it became wiser to pack up our bags and leave than to be unpopular on the nation's capital.

  • 11:18:09

    REHMWhere you disappointed?

  • 11:18:12

    EISNERI wasn't really disappointed because in the end of the day after a lot of research, it became clear that the winners in Washington were more severe than our research indicated and it would have been a tough economic road anyway and it was a very new project. It was a very good project. A lot of it we worked on in Hong Kong and other places, so we moved on.

  • 11:18:39

    REHMMichael Eisner, his new book is titled "Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed." Short break, right back.

  • 11:20:03

    REHMWelcome back. Michael Eisner is my guest. For four decades, he's been a leader in the entertainment industry. He began his career at ABC. He helped take that network from number three to number one in primetime daytime children's television. Now he has a new book out, it's titled "Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed." And one of the people you talk about in that book is your partner at Disney, Frank Wells. Why was he such a good partner?

  • 11:20:49

    EISNERWell, it's not just Frank that I talk about. He is -- he was the inspiration for writing the book 'cause he was a great partner to me for a decade at Disney before he was tragically killed in a helicopter accident, but I look at Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, I look at Bill Gates and his wife, uh, Melinda in philanthropy, I look at Ronny Howard and Brian Grazer in the movie business, a lot of great movies, academy awards like "Beautiful Mind." I looked at the two gentlemen that founded Home Depot, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank. And two chefs, two great women who are on the Food Network and work together. A sports figure, Joe Torre, and his bench coach, Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti and et cetera.

  • 11:21:37

    EISNERAnd the point was that throughout my career, I have noticed that strong partnerships like I had with Frank result in better products, more ethical behavior, more fun. And at the end of the day, those people that have them are happier. And I would include a spouse in that -- in that (unintelligible).

  • 11:22:02

    REHMYou've been married for more than 43 years.

  • 11:22:04

    EISNERI have. And this -- actually, there was a Harvard longitudinal study, which I heard about, I read about it in Atlantic magazine and elsewhere, where they followed the class of 1939 of Harvard for over 70 years. It was a -- and the class of '40 and '41. I think Jack Kennedy was in one of those classes and half of those men are no longer alive. They were men 'cause in that day the college only accepted men. And W. G. Grant had actually given Harvard the money to look for store managers. But after a decade, that disappeared and it became looking at what makes a better life, what makes people happier. And it was amazing the results because it wasn't exercise, it wasn't wealth, it wasn't the right diet. The number one thing was a sustained relationship through the ups and downs, but sustained over a long period of time. Number two happened to be staying connected with your siblings. A lot of people do not do that and number three was bestowing information to the next generation.

  • 11:23:14

    EISNERAnd as I looked at these partnerships, including mine with Frank, obviously you share the ups and the downs, you're in the foxhole, you're high-fiving the wins, but it's more than that. You obviously have alternate skills which -- when you're working together and every one of these relationships was different. But the one thing that these relationships had in common was there was no envy, there was no jealousy as to your partner. And if that came into play, these partnerships did not work. And I've had it...

  • 11:23:49


  • 11:23:50

    EISNER...obviously both ways. So with Frank Wells, he was happy being less public than I was. And actually, when I talked to Warren Buffett, who became a big agent of this book, 'cause he so much wanted Charlie Munger to get credit, he said, there's some partners who love the spotlight. He said, I like to play the banjo, I like to be on the cover of Fortune magazine and Charlie is the opposite. He likes to be a curmudgeon advising from the sidelines. And although Frank Wells had a completely different personality, he was a cheerleader. He was -- if I said, let's go do a theme park in Washington, yeah, let's go do it. If I said, let's do this movie or that, he was always enthusiastic. He was so part of the process. And I looked at that and then I looked at all these others.

  • 11:24:44

    EISNERAnd then I realized that, you know, we always teach our children when they're, like, in Kindergarten share, share. Don't throw that toy at your brother, don't throw up on your sister, be nice to your -- all your friends. And then they get to be about fifth or sixth grade and now what are we telling them? You know, succeed on your own, get the high SAT score, take that football alone across the goal line. And I think it's the wrong message. If the message were the continuing message from Kindergarten right through high school and college and business school, you tend to work with somebody and you tend to be a governor on them, let's say. You tend to do the right thing, you tend to be more ethical, you tend to be a check in balance. And I do believe that the present loss of integrity that we have seen in business and everywhere over the last 10 or 20 years would be less so if people were more inclined to be partners.

  • 11:25:50

    REHMBut, you know, when you went into Disney, you thought you were going in as the sole top leader.

  • 11:25:59

    EISNERNo, no. I definitely did not. They wanted both of us together. They wanted Frank and I to be co-heads and I said -- and I don't know why I said it, but I did have a pretty good job, you know, if I'm not the CEO, I'm not going to do it. And Frank said, with about a two-second pause, you got it.

  • 11:26:21


  • 11:26:22

    EISNERAnd I couldn't believe this man so selflessly decided that he was willing to be number two. And yes, I went in as the Chairman and the CEO and he went in as the President and the COO. Just like Warren Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and Charlie is Vice-Chairman or something, but that aside, that was really cosmetic and I was the front man and I was the rudder and I was this supposed creative person and crazy person and he was the supposed sane Rhodes Scholar Stanford lawyer. Although Sid Bass, the big financer who was behind us, when asked if I was the crazy one and Frank was the sane one, he said, no, they're both crazy.

  • 11:27:03

    EISNERBut we did go in together and because he was this selfless character. And if you look at Giancarlo Giammetti, 50 years with Valentino, he was always in the background. And there was this movie made called "The Last Emperor," which I saw, which made me think of them and Giammetti at the Légion d'honneur ceremony in France, where Valentino got this great award, is way in the back and the camera keeps cutting to him and you realize this is a man who loves his partner, who has made the company, who is the one that took him Around the World as Liza sang, but he's in the background. And finally, Valentino, after 50 years, thanks his friend and they both kind of start crying. And that emotional story in this partnership and that company would not exist but for both of them. The creativity of Valentino and the dedication of Giammetti created one of the great couturier brands for Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy and the world.

  • 11:28:13

    REHMWhen Frank Wells died very suddenly, sadly, in that helicopter accident, there was a note that was found in his wallet that said, humility is the final achievement. I don't think people think of you as having humility, so that that partnership must have worked well because one did have that sense of humility, where the other, at least, I must say, your public image is not one of being filled with humility.

  • 11:29:10

    EISNERWell, I don't think my wife would agree with that assessment. And I think, you know, like most people think I'm short and I'm not. So most people...

  • 11:29:16

    REHMYou're very tall.

  • 11:29:18

    EISNER...and most people think I don't have a sense of humor and some people think I have a very good sense of humor. The -- you know, the tough -- protecting the Walt Disney Company for 21 years, keeping it on the straight and narrow, keeping it ethical, keeping it moving forward around the world, people assume that if you can do that, you must be a hard ass. I think that people that know me would probably not agree with that, but it is true that Frank carried that fortune cookie -- we found it after he died, his son gave it to me -- in his wallet. And for whatever reason, Frank enjoyed being the supportive cheerleader more than he enjoyed -- which he had at one time at Warner Brothers -- the top job. And if you look at every one of these partnerships, they are slightly different each to the other, but they all have one of the partners is usually more on the center stage. That doesn't mean he's more important.

  • 11:30:22

    EISNERAnd actually, when I was talking to Warren Buffett about another partnership that I had, which didn't succeed, he said to me, Michael, it's not going to work. You both want to be in the spotlight, you both need that and you can't both be in -- and thank God Charlie Munger doesn't, because I needed to. And I think he said it after the fact. He remembers saying it before the fact, so he was probably right. But, you know, you look at -- and maybe your audience is not big sports fans right now, but if you look at Joe Torre who himself alone had never won major league baseball championships and you look at Don Zimmer who's his bench coach who also had not won (word?). Together, with Don Zimmer quietly sitting on the bench advising Joe Torre, who knew he had no ax to grind, who knew he did not want his job, they won four World Series.

  • 11:31:19

    EISNERThere is something about this trust and this -- I mean, Warren Buffett said to me, and I can't say it anywhere nearly as well as he can, he says, you know, let's talk about the seven deadly sins. I said, all right, Warren, let's talk about the seven deadly sins. He said, you know, gluttony, good, you feel -- you eat, you have a big meal, you feel terrible later, you overate, you're going to be fat. Lust, you know, lust is fun, except for you come to pay the price later. He said, envy, it's awful. It makes you sick, you don't feel good when it's -- when you feel it, you don't feel good later, you don't feel good after the fact. He said, this envy and jealousy is the downfall. And these partnerships don't have it against each other.

  • 11:32:06

    EISNEROften, a single practitioner, which we all kind of want to be, we all think, you know -- name some great business, J.P. Morgan or something great, you know, we don't really know what happened. We don't know there wasn't pillow talk or something. But the ones that we idolize and many that we thought we idolized that fell, when you don't have a partner, sometimes you can't walk past a mirror, oh, my God, isn't that guy great or that woman great? Or you get arrogant and you forget the downside or you actually go over the line and do things that aren't legal. Having a partner is a very good check and balance for that.

  • 11:32:49

    REHMMichael Eisner, his new book is titled "Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed." So thinking about today's corporate culture, generally what is it that's happened? Why do you think that there has been this downfall of public faith in corporations, believing that those corporations are simply out for themselves? Is it the individual leaders who've done that to themselves or is it simply this need to acquire more and more money?

  • 11:33:45

    EISNERWell, there's no single answer, but of course, there are my theories. First of all, I would say most corporations are very ethical and very well run and very important for the country and...

  • 11:34:00

    REHMMost, you would say.

  • 11:34:01

    EISNERMost and do not suffer the Enron Simpsons. There are some where the adulation of a single leader and the adulation and the desire through insecurity to become wealthy beyond sanity creates situations where people do stupid things, which is why I advocate -- partnerships are stronger than single people believing what they read in the media about themselves.

  • 11:34:33

    REHMWhat does wealthy beyond sanity mean?

  • 11:34:37

    EISNERWell, you know, you only can put on one pair of shoes at a time and you only can have a certain amount of clothes. And, you know, the game of being in the media's richest people or in some local paper having acquired most of downtown and all of those kinds of -- kind of testosterone often driven things are shallow. And at the end of the day, we all end up with the same kind of dust-to-dust...

  • 11:35:06

    REHMHave you ever been affected by that kind of desire?

  • 11:35:13

    EISNERNo. I don't -- I've never cared about that. I have the benefit of having come from a very well-to-do family. I don't know if that's good or bad. It just is. It's a fact. I used to be embarrassed to say it, but it is a fact. And I never asked anybody how much money I made or what I got and it was always after the fact and I did very well at Disney. The company went from a billion eight to $80 billion in value and I had stock options. I didn't even really know what I was getting when I even got them. And it turned out to be -- it all kind of came together in one day, so the media -- 'cause, you know, stock options take a decade to vest and the media had a heyday because Disney had done so well and I had prospered along with the rest of the shareholders.

  • 11:35:56

    EISNERBut, no, it's, I think -- you know, Chagall -- and I talk about this in the book -- Chagall had this great continuing painting that he did of a horse and a man. And he painted a giant, giant horse with a tiny, tiny little man and the man kept getting thrown off visually. Or he'd paint a giant, giant man and a tiny, tiny horse and the horse couldn't even get up. And the bottom line is the horse kind of represents emotion, animal instincts and all that and the man represents intellect. And unless the man and the horse are in simpatico and kind of have their emotional intelligence, their ego in check and their intelligence at a sufficiently high level to operate, it won't work. So some people are just -- they don't have both of them together. And often a partnership brings them both together and, you know, I really believe that life is about family and work. And you can add life is about family and work and love. And if you can get that in some kind of relationship with each other, I think you have a better shot of succeeding.

  • 11:37:10

    REHMDo you think your management style changed after Frank Wells' death?

  • 11:37:18

    EISNERNo. I was always impetuous but cautious. I know those don't go together. I was always a risk taker and cautious.

  • 11:37:29

    REHMAnd you stayed that way.

  • 11:37:30

    EISNERYes. I just didn't have Frank with me, but I did stay that way.

  • 11:37:33

    REHMMichael Eisner, his new book titled "Working Together" is all about why great partnerships succeed. Short break, then your calls. Right back.

  • 11:40:03

    REHMAnd it's time to open the phones at 800-433-8850. First to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Ann Jeanette, you're on the air.

  • 11:40:16

    ANN JEANETTEGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 11:40:18


  • 11:40:19

    JEANETTEDiane, I just wanted to say your program is a treasure, especially this topic. This is something that's very important to me, so thank you for having...

  • 11:40:28

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:40:28

    JEANETTE...having this show. Mr. Eisner, I wanted to ask, I've listened to the program and what would you like readers to take away from the book on establishing partnerships in the workplace? That's something I am working on, but it's difficult. It's very difficult for me 'cause there's so much, I would say, competition.

  • 11:40:55

    EISNERI would say that what I would like the reader to go away with is that it's good to be part of a partnership. And actually, all over the country, young people are starting restaurants, they're starting technology companies and garages, they're starting all sorts of different entrepreneurial things and usually with a partner and that's good. The objective of being a sole star quarterback as opposed to a team player is, to me, the wrong objective. And I think you'd be more successful with a partner, it's much more fun. And by the way, the conclusion that I come to in this book as my overall conclusion are partners are happier. All the people I interviewed are happier. That Harvard longitudal study over 70 years kinda proved that. Sole practitioners do not have the fun of the ups and the downs. You know, when you do badly -- like in my life, if a film doesn't open, then my wife, who was a great partner, who asked me why I made that film in the first place, but other than that, your partner and you can kinda sit there and say, well, next movie will survive...

  • 11:42:12


  • 11:42:13

    EISNER...black comedy, jokes. When you're by yourself...

  • 11:42:15

    REHMYou bet.

  • 11:42:15

    EISNER...you're by yourself.

  • 11:42:16

    REHMYou bet. Thanks for calling, Ann Jeanette. To Kay who's in Dallas, Texas. Good morning, you're on the air.

  • 11:42:26

    KAYGood morning. I just wanted to make a statement. I just wanted to say I'm not a fan of Mr. Eisner because Jim Hightower had one of my favorite talk shows and he criticized Mr. Eisner about, I think it was Disneyland in Florida, where they weren't paying the employees enough and they canceled his show. And I just wondered all -- were all Disney employees at risk of their job if they criticized Mr. Eisner?

  • 11:43:07

    EISNERI don't know even the man you're referring to that was...

  • 11:43:12

    REHMJim Hightower.

  • 11:43:12

    EISNERI've heard of him, but...

  • 11:43:14


  • 11:43:14

    EISNER...but I was not running ABC radio. This is the first I've heard of that. Actually, the employees of Walt Disney World are, I think, fairly paid and well paid and I'm rather -- the following of somebody criticizing us and then being fired is the opposite of the way I would've ever reacted. That's very stupid. And it always comes back to haunt you if you do something that stupid, so it wasn't my decision. So that doesn't get it away from me being blamed for it, of course. And I would not have approved of it if somebody had come up to me and -- I find it hard to believe, but I accept the fact that it may have happened.

  • 11:44:00

    REHMHere's an e-mail from Mike, who says, "I'm interested in Michael Eisner's thoughts on partnerships that are clearly not working. Based on his knowledge now, is there a way to salvage their relationships? Looking back on his relationship with Katzenberg, is there anything he, Michael Eisner, could've done differently to change that outcome?" You might...

  • 11:44:32


  • 11:44:32

    REHM...give us a little background on that.

  • 11:44:34

    EISNERIt's a two part question. The first part is, are all partnerships salvageable? And that's like saying are all marriages salvageable? And I'm not a marriage counselor, but you can make a wrong -- a mistake in a marriage and my advice after trying hard to rectify it is probably to move on and find a partner that you are more compatible with. And the same could be true in business. As far as Jeffrey Katzenberg is concerned, he worked with me as a partner -- a junior partner at Paramount for six or seven years. He worked with me at Disney for a decade as a partner in the movie division. He was fantastic. He's a great executive. We got along very well. After Frank Wells died, who was the president of the parent corporation, he wanted Frank Wells' job. I made the decision that he was not ready for that job and it was better for him to move on and find other partners, which he did, in Steven Spielberg, for instance, and has done extremely well. So that was a partnership that lasted 16 years. The time had come for it to move on and both parties did extremely well. Was there a moment in time when it was unpleasant because we each read a contract differently? Yes. And could've I handled that better? For sure.

  • 11:45:53

    EISNERBut that was a partnership that was -- that worked. I've had partnerships that have not worked from day one. You know, you hear about people who said they got divorced and they knew when their wife -- their future wife was walking down the aisle or a woman says her future husband walking down the aisle, she knew at that moment it was a mistake. That happens. You kind of go into things. The momentum carries you and you make a mistake. The only way to resolve that, if it's gonna be a mistake, is to accept it and move on. And I did move on. I have a partnership with the present -- had a partnership with the present CEO of Disney, who I recommended replace me, Bob Iger. You know, life goes on. By the way, just because you write a book about something doesn't mean you do it all correctly.

  • 11:46:37

    REHMYeah, exactly.

  • 11:46:38

    EISNERAs a matter-of-fact, some of your mistakes enlighten the writing of the book so that nobody else makes the same mistake.

  • 11:46:44

    REHMAll right. To Sue in Dallas, Texas. Good morning.

  • 11:46:49

    SUEGood morning. First of all, Diane, I'm flattered, I'm honored to be on your show. You're the only real interviewer left, as far as I'm concerned.

  • 11:46:56

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:46:58

    SUEAnd Mr. Eisner, I followed your incredibly gutsy career move. I mean, impressive is an understatement. My question is, what are your thoughts with egos and business? I mean, ego we -- it's inherent in each one of us, so how do you deal with egos and business? Thank you very much. I'll take my call off the air.

  • 11:47:14


  • 11:47:15

    EISNERWell, we're all human and we all have egos. Some are in the right size and some are undersized and some are oversized. And the one thing that people keep forgetting about business is is it's made up of people and companies go up and companies go down. And they go up and down because of people usually acting badly emotionally. They wouldn't have been there in the first place if they didn't have the intellectual capacity, so it's -- we're flesh and blood. There's jealously and workplace issues. And if you can keep those in check and keep your personality and its tendencies for the dark side under control, you probably have a better shot.

  • 11:48:06

    REHMI wanna ask you about the concerns that many people have raised as far as Disney and the Disney World taking over the lives of their children. The presence of Disney is rather extraordinarily large and many people think it's too influential, it's too large, it's too intrusive. What do you say to them?

  • 11:48:46

    EISNERWell, I've never heard that, I mean...

  • 11:48:48


  • 11:48:49

    EISNERNot that. I've heard people use Disney in a pejorative sense or Mickey Mouse in a pejorative sense, but, you know, Disney is a small piece of American culture. Most of the things that Disney does are trying to be good citizens, do quality products, quality movies, quality animation that have real themes. Some of them are a little rough. My wife always tells me about how she ran out of a theater at five years old after seeing "Dumbo," so...

  • 11:49:22

    REHMOne of my favorites (unintelligible)

  • 11:49:23

    EISNEROh, no, excuse me.

  • 11:49:24

    REHMOr "Bambi," I'll bet.

  • 11:49:25

    EISNER"Bambi." I meant "Bambi."

  • 11:49:27


  • 11:49:27

    EISNERNo, "Dumbo" was not a problem. The big ears are fine. "Bambi" with, you will never see your mother again line, so Walt certainly understood how to frighten and how to recover. Disney World vacation is a fantastic vacation. The Disney cruise ships are fantastic. I really think that our issue is not Disney is defining the country. I think our issues are education, inner school problems, lack of funding for teachers, not recognizing teachers, a lot of things that are on the dark side, I think we -- when we went to Disney in '84, Disney was about to broken up and dissolved and gone into the wind by either bad governance or corporate raiders. And I think -- I'm proud of the fact that we were able to keep that and also export it around the world into France and Hong Kong, Japan and other places.

  • 11:50:25

    REHMBut think about young girls. Think about the influence of a figure like Hannah Montana. Think about how that young woman affects what younger women want to aspire to rather than study hard, become a scholar of the classroom, instead what to wear, how to look, what kind of makeup to wear, how to wear the hair. That kind of influence clearly -- I've seen it in my granddaughter and she's only eight. And it troubles me because it seems to me there's an early sexualization of young people, not just because of Disney, but surely Disney plays a part.

  • 11:51:37

    EISNERWell, I'm not here to defend Disney and I've not been at Disney during the Hannah Montana craze, but I would say that the Disney version of that is a lot less sexual and threatening than the other women who are not at Disney, the Lindsay Lohan and that whole group. I was really referring to the princess, I mean, 'cause I see all these girls wanting to dress up as princesses and so forth. And I have three sons. I happen to have some granddaughters now, so maybe I'll learn more about it as time goes on, but...

  • 11:52:13

    REHMI think you will. I think you will.

  • 11:52:16

    EISNERI -- when I was at Disney, this question did not come up, so I'm not really qualified to deal with the Hannah Montana craze, so I just assume move on.

  • 11:52:29

    REHMWe move on, but I think we have to be very careful about how we introduce creatures of culture and what that culture may represent for those young minds and young bodies that do get their influence from the larger world of media.

  • 11:52:58

    EISNERWell, I don't know whether little girls all think they're gonna be Cinderella, really. Those are fantasies. I grew up as a boy thinking that Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio were heroes. I really didn't think I was gonna be the centerfielder for the New York Yankees, so I think we have to be careful as to what is appropriate fantasy for children and what goes over the line.

  • 11:53:22

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Charleston, W.Va. Good morning, Mike, you're on the air.

  • 11:53:33

    MIKEHello, Diane. It's a pleasure to be on your show.

  • 11:53:35

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:53:36

    MIKEMr. Eisner, I grew up in Granville, Ohio. And I know -- I think you attended Denison University there.

  • 11:53:42

    EISNERI did.

  • 11:53:43

    MIKEAnd I wonder if you could tell the audience a little bit about that part of your life and how it influenced your career. You've had a very interesting career and I think your college years are important in understanding how you came to be the person you are. And frankly, I found Granville to be a fabulous place to grow up, so please talk a little bit about your years at Denison.

  • 11:54:04

    EISNERI think that was a seminal time in my life and I think -- but for that, I would never have been effective executive or even been at Disney. I'd gone to all boys schools from kindergarten through 12 grade and was headed off to an Ivy League all boys school and saw an image of the chapel at Denison with its beautiful, I hope this isn't sexist after the last conversation, girl walking in front of the chapel. I thought, hey, what have I been doing? And I went to Denison, 1600 -- now they got about 1800 to 2000 students. Only at a school like Denison could I write a play 'cause if I was at Northwestern, I wasn't capable enough to compete, but at Denison I could compete 'cause there were fewer students and it got produced. I loved every second of it. I loved coeducation. I loved the friendliness of Ohio. I'd still be in Ohio if they had a movie industry and I just -- having grown up in Manhattan and gone to school in and around there, the window of fresh air coming in when I got to Granville, Ohio. And I even loved the sororities and the fraternities and all that stuff that movies are made about.

  • 11:55:14

    REHMWhere did you meet your wife?

  • 11:55:17

    EISNERI actually met her in New York. She went to a similar kind of school called St. Lawrence in New York state. And the girl that I was pinned to -- in those days, you were pinned. It was like pre-engaged.

  • 11:55:26


  • 11:55:27

    EISNERI called her up and her mother told me she'd gotten married to somebody else, which actually turned out to be a relief. I didn’t know it. And I met my now 43 years of having a spouse that night, so I was lucky. I had a relationship, a partnership, that was better ended and met somebody who shared my vision of life.

  • 11:55:52

    REHMYou were and are a lucky man to have had that kind of partnership both in your private life and through Frank Wells in your public and professional life. I think that we all would hope for those kinds of relationships. I have been married for 50 years, so I top you...

  • 11:56:23


  • 11:56:23

    REHM...by a bit. And just celebrated that 50 anniversary last December and feel very, very fortunate.

  • 11:56:33


  • 11:56:34

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:56:34

    EISNERI'm sitting in the studio, so you can't see what I'm seeing, but were you married when you were eight (laugh) ?

  • 11:56:43

    REHM(laugh) I'm 74 years old. Michael Eisner and his new book is titled "Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed." Thank you for being here.

  • 11:56:57

    EISNERThank you for having me.

  • 11:56:58

    REHMIt was a great pleasure.

  • 11:56:59

    EISNERThank you.

  • 11:56:59

    REHMThanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 11:57:03

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, Podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is drshow@wamu.org and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.

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