Michael Eisner Goes Online: "I'm Much Happier Now"

12/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On a Friday morning in September, Michael D. Eisner was in a television studio on the East Side of Manhattan, asking Robert L. Nardelli, the chairman of Chrysler, whether he nursed a grudge against Jack Welch for passing him over for the top job at General Electric eight years ago.

"I don't hold any grudge against Jack," Mr. Nardelli told his interviewer.

Mr. Eisner then delicately raised Mr. Nardelli's fall from grace at Home Depot, where he was deposed last year after a seven-year run during which profits doubled but the stock declined, putting him in the cross hairs of the executive-pay critics. He left with a $210 million payout.

"Your performance was great," Mr. Eisner told him, "but your style was different from the founder."

It is a narrative of the aggrieved executive -- victim of outside forces, the swells of public opinion pivoting against highly paid chieftains -- that could be applied to Mr. Eisner's own conception of his corporate life as chief executive of the Walt Disney Company and how it came to an end after a bitter public fight with the nephew of Walt Disney himself.

"I'm much happier now," he says. "The only thing I'm disappointed with is I didn't leave three to four years earlier."

In the autumn of 2005, Mr. Eisner worked his last day as chief executive of Disney. His ubiquitous mug and wide grin came to embody the company almost as much as Mickey Mouse, making him a public personality in his own right.

At the end, however, he looked more like Richard Nixon, isolated atop his empire. He found himself under siege from two former board members, who sought to force him out after 20 years because they felt the company was underperforming.

Today, Mr. Eisner has settled into a comfortable post-Disney existence -- deeply involved with his talk show, his investments and his experiments in new media, and quite pleased that corporate spinmeisters no longer surround him.

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