By FRANK SWERTLOW
For the past few weeks, Michael Eisner has been everywhere.
In conducting nearly non-stop interviews to promote his autobiography, the normally publicity shy chairman of Walt Disney Co. has the opportunity to clear the air about his relationships with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Ovitz, Frank Wells, Barry Diller and other Hollywood titans.
He also has a chance to present a softer, kinder image than the one often portrayed in books and media accounts.
So what does he offer up?
Relatively little, as it turns out. Instead, "Work In Progress" concentrates not so much on personalities, but on Eisner's 14-year management rein at Disney.
"This is not a P.R.-driven book," he told the Business Journal last week. "I think the people who know me and the people who don't have a completely different view of me. I am not a politician worrying about my image. I worry about my family and what I do in this company. Certainly the people in the public relations department would like me to be more accessible, but frankly there are only so many hours in the day."
For Eisner, who said he already is planning a sequel, the book is "a road map" explaining the success of Disney, why the company is different from other multinational firms, and where the entertainment giant is headed in the next millennium.
The company, whose consistent ability to generate 20 percent-plus earnings growth has made it a darling of Wall Street, has run into trouble in recent months. Its film division has not been performing, tourism is down at its theme parks, and it has proven unable to turn around the fortunes of No. 3 network, ABC.
Eisner helped make ABC No. 1 in the late 1970s, but it, like the other networks, is suffering from an erosion of viewers. Eisner said he has no plans to sell ABC and considers it a valuable, synergistic asset one that will become even more valuable when high-definition TV becomes a major factor for viewers.
Eisner said Disney's array of broadcast and cable networks ESPN, the Disney Channel, A & E;, the History Channel, Lifetime, Classic Sports, and the ABC network will give the company an enormous advantage over its competitors.
He also believes that the Internet has enormous potential as a vehicle for both commerce and entertainment. Eventually, he believes it will be dominated by three to six large companies similar to the domination of the film and television businesses today and he plans to make Disney one of them.
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