Eisner walks 'Wall Street' tightrope

Prerna K Mishra
New Delhi, November 18, 2006

Former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner has walked the tightrope between Wall Street and Hollywood for all his working life.

He knows the politics and economics of entertainment inside out. But for the next couple of weeks, work for him will take a backseat as Eisner goes on a journey to discover India – from Agra, to Varanasi and later to Kochi, he told Prerna K Mishra in an exclusive interview.

You earned a reputation for turning around ailing entertainment companies: ABC, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney. Is there a formula to success?

A formula can only create failures. To me achieving success is a step by step process and not a science. It is not so difficult to achieve success as it is to sustain it. One can never fall off the floor but when you are climbing up, chances of taking a fall are much greater.

For a long time, EuroDisney looked like one big mistake. Do you think it was wrong timing for a right business decision?

It has something to do with the resentment in Europe against everything American, even though we tried to incorporate Europe's culture through its epic stories and history in EuroDisney.

We took the risk of treading on a cold windy territory with a very expensive project but it was seen as creeping American imperialism. Also, people start looking for instant gratification which sometimes leads to instant disappointment.

But I would never let media criticism sway me from what I think is the right decision. My persistence was vindicated. Today EuroDisney is the most visited and loved place in Europe.

You quit Disney in 2005 in controversial circumstances, but you continue to be their biggest and boldest ambassador. Have you forgiven and forgotten?

Disney as a company that was so big and successful, that we weren't discriminating enough. I think, around 2004-05, we were caught in 'Enron–corporate governance-executive salaries-political campaign' kind of a situation and what happened at Disney was a clear fall out of that sentiment. Many politicians made their presence felt by getting audibly associated with what they made out to be a great political campaign. We obviously have come out of their scrutiny 'squeaky clean' but those were bad times.

Do you see India emerging as a creative hub or sorts for the world?

I have yet to see a community that is so committed, has such tenacity to work, and has such great ambitions and is also so creative. India sure holds great promise.

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