The message below was sent to a Disney-related mailing list I operate. It was written by a long-time member of the list who is extremely knowledgeable about Disney's history. It just so happens that he also works for Comcast.It's long, but I hope you'll at least glance over it. It's an interesting read.====="If the list will indulge me I will share my thoughts. Before I begin I should give alittle bit of personal disclaimer in that I happen to work for Comcast.The comments which follow are MY own personal opinions and do notrepresent or speak for Comcast.I find myself in a very interesting position. As many of you know onthis list I am a Disney historian, and I care very much about the WaltDisney Company, and Walt's legacy. Yet I also have a very clear viewand understanding of Comcast. Talk about being in the right place atthe right time. A number of years ago I was attracted to go to work for Comcast becausethere were several ex-Disney execs who happened to have gone to workfor them. The most high profile of which is Steve Burke, who went toComcast after starting the Disney stores, working at ABC, and bailingout Euro Disneyland. Burke is currently head of the Cable division ofthe Company. The rumors have always been that Burke and Eisner had somesort of falling out, which drove Steve to go elsewhere to pursue hiscareer. I do not know for sure. I happen to know Steve Burke as a casual acquaintance, been in quite afew meetings with him, and I have also had the opportunity to watchhim actively manage a crisis within the company at the corporateheadquarters. Steve is incredibly intelligent and one of the bestmanagers that I have ever known. A lot of the growth that Comcast hasenjoyed has been due in very large part to Steve. I can't think of aperson who is more opposite Eisner than Steve. (Indeed Steve's officeis really small. He has a small desk and a couch and that's it - heck myoffice is larger!!.) The guy is not on an ego trip, I can tell youthat!! One of the things which really impress me about Steve is thathe really gets what's important. He has the ability to focus on aproblem and not get distracted by other things. He has a great style ofleadership which I really admire. His thinking is very logical. He hasa great vision, and is an excellent public speaker. Additionally Stevehas a very deep understanding of how Disney works.(He was head at onetime or another of 3 of Disney's 4 operating divisions) From my ownpersonal experience I would feel very comfortable with Steve having asenior leadership role in the combined Company. (should that happen). Now I am not going to defend Comcast here, or wave the Comcast flag.Depending on who you talk to there are varying opinions of the company.Some people think it is wonderful, some hate it, and some are neutral.I don't want to debate how good or bad the cable service is. Everyonehates paying for cable. What I can tell you is that Comcast isabsolutely the best company that I have ever worked for, and they dotreat their employees very well, from what I have seen. One of the things that I would like to share with everyone is theComcast management philosophy. For those who don't know Comcast wasfounded by Ralph J. Roberts, Daniel Aaron and Julian A. Brodsky with apurchase of a 1,200-subscriber cable system in Tupelo, MS in 1963. Fromthat start Comcast began buying other cable systems across the countryand even in the UK. The largest purchase was the ATT Broadband onewhich made Comcast the number one cable company in the US in terms ofsubscribers. Most importantly, Comcast's philosophy has always beenLocal de-centralized control. Another words when a new property waspurchased by Comcast leadership was not moved to some far offheadquarters office. Leadership was kept right in the system, close tothe customer and the community which is served by the cable system.True, they do look for results, but it is the least centrally controlledcompany that I have ever worked for. Its a system that works. Currentlythere are about 60,000 employees in the company. The Philadelphia HQhas only 1000 people. It is not top heavy at all. Indeed when thecompany merged with ATT the HQ staff was not increased by very mucheven though the company doubled in size.Is a Comcast run Disney any worse than an Eisner run Disney? - Myfeeling is no.. I think on the whole Eisner being gone is positive. Mytake on this is that if Comcast were to be successful with Disney Idon't see them shutting down the Disney we all know and love. A lot ofpeople kind of have this fear that they are going to gut Disney andturn it into something other than a creative, vibrant company. I cantell you that they are too smart to do that. Steve and Brian Robertsunderstand just what makes Disney special, and I really feel that theywould work to improve it, not tear it apart. In addition Comcast hassome ex-Disney execs who left because they could not stand what wasgoing on.. they have experience that can come back to the companyshould the merger happen. Would they sell some under performing assets?? They might. Will theysell the movie library, the studio, Imagineering, the theme parks?? Idon't think so. Those things are key to what makes Disney “Disney”and these guys know that its the core of the company. They are verygood at focusing on what's important and what drives growth. I thinkeverything that we know and love would be fine if this merger happened.Steve and Brian did a presentation early this morning about the deal,and I would like to quote from it a little bit. One of the things theysaid was "to reignite the World's Greatest Entertainment Businesses "they want to "Empower Disney Animation team to build on the legacy ofsuccess... Animation success drives consumer products and theme parks."Clearly they understand that Animation and the theme parks are core toDisney. They want to strengthen them not tear them apart. Continuing toquote "The Disney theme parks are America's favorite vacationdestinations ... restore energy and creativity in attractions, hotelsand concessions.." Clearly theme parks are key in their vision of thecompany. Additionally they would plan to "eliminating duplicatecorporate and divisional functions".. which to me means that all thosesuits, and endless layers of Disney management, will be thinned andstreamlined. These guys understand what Disney needs to get it back onthe right track again. I can tell you that they are not fans of bloatedmanagement. All of this being said, I have always been a fan of Disney beingindependent. It does tug on my heart string a little that the companywont be going it alone as it has done since Walt started it. But as Ihonestly look at Disney today I think it is going to get bought bysomeone anyway. Sure the official Disney corporate line is that"everything's great, and we have never been doing better".. but come on..Theme parks not being kept to Walt's standards, endless direct to videocheap animation, so-so storylines, the death of traditional animation,the brain drain of creative people leaving the company, the loss of thePixar relationship, Off the shelf rides for the theme parks, no newE-ticket attractions for years, shutting down of classic attractions,and on, and on.. How long before Disney is ran totally into the ground.There is a reason why Comcast has decided to go after Disney at thistime.. they know that Disney is hurting, and is vulnerable. With theway things are going it is only a matter of time unless the uppermanagement of Disney is changed. I would much rather that Comcast getDisney now, while we can still save it, then someone else get it laterand sell off each division of the company, and sell off the remainingundeveloped Florida land which is extremely valuable to the highestbidder, totally destroying that special feeling that WDW gives us. Nowthat this process has started its not going to end until somethingmajor happens. If Comcast fails in its attempt I am sure that therewill be others wanting the company. It will be never ending, furtherdistracting the Disney Company's board of directors, and seniormanagement, just like what happened to Ron Miller back when Eisner gotcontrol of the company all those years ago. It is only a matter of timefor Eisner now. From a Historical perspective - did Walt ever consider a merger withanother company? Yes he did.. he always turned the offers down. Whichmade perfect sense because Disney didn't need any help at that time.After Walt died, Roy Sr. was approached with an offer from Gulf andWestern corporation. I understand that the offer was taken veryseriously by Roy - but he decided against it in the end, preferring tofocus on building Walt Disney World. Would Roy have accepted the offerfrom Gulf & Western if Roy had lived much past the opening of WDW?? Idon't know, but I suspect that he would have looked hard at it.I think that Comcast would be very sensitive to the Traditions andculture of the Company. I can't see them coming in and making all thesechanges to that stuff.. What would be the reason for them to?? What Ican see is them coming in and getting the operations back on track. The one thing that I can't get my mind around just yet is Roy Jr. andStanley's reaction to this. They really have not said where they standon this yet and it makes me a little uneasy. I suspect that in the endthey may try to join forces with Comcast, because it is going to betheir best shot. Comcast has the clout and money that Roy and Stanleyneed to effect change. I could definitely see Comcast offering them aseat on the board. Has Roy and Comcast talked?? No, according to BrainRoberts in this mornings news conference. Will they?? Who knows. Isuspect they will. I would like to see Roy's support, but that remainsto be seen. I can add another insight. This whole merger thing is not a flash inthe pan. The guys from Comcast are dead serious about pursuing this. Ilike to say that when these guys go after something they do it 110%. Itis not something that Eisner is going to brush off easily. It is notgoing away quietly. They will keep at it. The whole ATT thing that theydid was hostile, and in the end they won. I know that someone else buying Disney is a hard thing to swallow. ButI honestly believe that it is the best shot that Disney is going toget. Luckily I have watched these guys work, and I feel that they willdo well running the Disney Company. They can't do any worse than Eisnerthat's for sure."=====
The message below was sent to a Disney-related mailing list I operate. It was written by a long-time member of the list who is extremely knowledgeable about Disney's history. It just so happens that he also works for Comcast.It's long, but I hope you'll at least glance over it. It's an interesting read.=====Thanks for the info. It definitely did make for an interesting read. Thoughtful insight is invaluable.Whatever the ultimate outcome, Disney is now in "play". Whether Comcast succeeds or another suitor steps in, I seriously question whether Disney will be able to remain independent. I like the concept of decentralized management, allowing the creative types to be creative. As a shareholder, I am interested in what is best for the continuation of the Disney legacy as well as for shareholders. I am in favor of Disney remaining independent, but I just think that is unlikely.According to an article in today's WSJ, Comcast started planning the first week in January and then, over the next month, putting its takeover plans together. Comcast is a serious player, just ask ATT about non-friendly takeovers. This same WSJ article also referred to John Malone and Barry Diller as being on the list of possible rival bidders.
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