Pension Funds Demand Face Time with Disney’s Directors

Variety reports that six of the largest U.S. state pension funds –including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System CalPERS and the New York State Common Retirement Fund–are demanding an audience with the Mouse’s Board of Directors to discuss the company’s performance and leadership.

Although the group used a more concilatory tone toward Disney CEO Michael Eisner and didn’t directly call for his ouster, they expressed their concern over the succession plan.

In a joint letter to the new Disney Board of Directors chairman George Mitchell, the fund reps pointed out that they remain “deeply concerned that our investments and the future of this company are in jeopardy. The company has lost more than 20% I stock value over the last five years … In our view, such a meeting would send a necessary signal to the marketplace that the Disney board is willing to engage in a constructive dialogue regarding our mutual interests as fiduciaries and shareowner representatives.”

Reps of the six funds, which manage close to $500 billion in assets, voiced their unhappiness with the company’s management at the March 3 annual meeting, in which 43% of shareholders withheld votes for Eisner.

In related news, Warner Books has delayed the publication of Eisner’s feel-good memoir, Camp, which focuses on the life lessons he learned during his boyhood days at camp. Originally scheduled for a Father’s Day release, the tome’s pub date is now postponed until the summer of 2005. According to a Warner Books spokesperson, the date was pushed back because the CEO doesn’t have time to promote the project. The company offered the same explanation earlier this year when it delayed the publication of Rosie O’Donnell’s book, Celebrity Detox.