Disney's Brain Drain

Some of Eisner's top executives have shipped out, but the company's profit machine rolls on

When a helicopter carrying Frank Wells, president of the Walt Disney Co., crashed in Nevada on Easter Sunday, 1994, Hollywood whispered that the tragedy had taken Disney's heart with it. It also left the now 56-year-old Michael Eisner, the company's brilliant chief executive, lacking a confidant and a suitable successor. In the past four years, Eisner has entertained a number of pretenders to the throne, notably Michael Ovitz and Jeffrey Katzenberg, only to ultimately discard them--painfully and publicly.

Now this corporate attrition appears to be accelerating. Last week's exit of Steve Burke, president of Disney subsidiary ABC Broadcasting, was the...

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