Michael Eisner

Age: 55

Net Worth: $405 million

Source of Wealth: Entertainment

Residence: Los Angeles

Michael Eisner is the highest-paid corporate executive in U.S. history. And don’t think shareholders of Walt Disney Co. don’t know it.

Two months ago, Eisner’s lucrative package of bonuses and stock options touched off the nastiest shareholders’ meeting in his 13-year tenure at Disney. Speakers berated him for his high compensation and his disastrous decision to hire his longtime friend Michael Ovitz as company president. But the shareholders approved Eisner’s newest compensation package anyway.

Eisner’s earnings-tied bonus paid him $14 million last year, his unexercised stock options from a former contract are worth about $360 million, and a his new contract grants him options for an additional 8 million Disney shares with an estimated value of more than $195 million.

To top it all off, many corporate compensation experts say he’s worth it.

Since Eisner arrived in 1984, Disney’s stock price has risen by a factor of 25 (adjusted for stock splits). Meanwhile, annual revenues have increased 12-fold, to more than $21 billion.

The biggest issue confronting the 55-year-old Eisner and Disney shareholders is succession. Even the most respected executive in the entertainment industry isn’t immortal, and Eisner’s health became a major concern after he was forced to undergo a quadruple bypass operation in July 1994. Ovitz was clearly being groomed as Eisner’s successor, but at this point, Eisner doesn’t seem in any rush to appoint a new Disney president.

Dan Turner

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