Michael D. Eisner
Net Worth: $700 million
Source of Wealth: Entertainment
Residence: Los Angeles
On the surface, Michael D. Eisner seems like he's making peanuts as chairman of Walt Disney Co. a mere $750,000 in annual salary. But the real payoff has been stock options. His current 10-year contract, which runs until 2006, includes options on 8 million shares, plus bonuses, that are estimated to be worth $400 million during the life of the contract.
Executive compensation experts estimate that Eisner has earned close to $1 billion since he joined Disney in 1984, making him one of the few hired hands ever to make the Forbes 400. Less than a year ago, he exercised stock options worth about $565 million the single biggest payday ever for an executive.
Many shareholders think Eisner is worth it. A $1,000 investment in Disney in 1984 would be worth more than $25,000 today.
But Eisner is not infallible. He has been criticized as a micro-manager who has his hand in every corporate pie. Despite his brilliance as an executive, one financial analyst called him a "dictatorial autocrat." In recent weeks, four key executives, considered up-and-comers within Disney, have quit. Such moves have raised questions about Eisner's ability to share power.
A highly regarded programming executive at ABC, Eisner was picked by Paramount to run the Hollywood studio in 1984, which soared under his tenure. He then jumped to Disney, which had been under-performing.
The company was not only reinvigorated, especially with animated films like "Lion King" and "Pocahontas," but became a global giant with theme parks, films, TV production and Broadway musicals. Under Eisner, Disney also made the $20 billion purchase of Capital Cities/ABC in 1996, which added ESPN, TV's most profitable network, to the fold.
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