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March 14, 2005

CEO news

After a couple of years of shareholder unrest over the direction of the Walt Disney Co., the company's board yesterday named veteran Disney insider Robert Iger to replace Michael Eisner as the company's CEO. Mr. Iger was Mr. Eisner's choice to to succeed him. Here are the previous posts over the past year on the turmoil at Disney.

The theory behind the appointment of Mr. Iger is that he is best suited of all the candidates to continue Disney's recent financial success because of his experience with the inner workings of the unique Disney culture. On the other hand, some Disney board members are still smarting over the choice of Mr. Iger over over outsider Meg Whitman, the eBay Inc. CEO who interviewed for the job a week ago but almost immediately withdrew her name from consideration because she felt the Disney board favored Mr. Iger.

Consequently, Mr. Iger's selection is unlikely to bring immediate peace to the fractured Disney boardroom, in which dissident board members Roy E. Disney and Stanley Gold have already criticized Mr. Iger's selection as being a sham orchestrated by by Disney Chairman George Mitchell.

Meanwhile, Eliot Spitzer is about to carve another notch in his belt as this NY Times article reports that Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, who turned American International Group Inc. into a financial services industry giant over the past generation, is planning to step down as chief executive amidst concern on the company's board over investigations into certain of the company's structured finance transactions with a Berkshire Hathaway insurance unit. Here is an earlier post on Mr. Spitzer's investigation into AIG's practices.

Mr. Greenberg's imminent departure from AIG is a stunning reversal for the New York-based financial-services titan. Mr. Greenberg is one of America's most successful CEO's, and has personally transformed AIG over the past 40 years from an obscure property-casualty insurer into one of the world's largest financial-services companies. Its market capitalization of almost $170 billion makes it one of the world's most valuable companies, and Mr. Greenberg is one of the company's largest individual shareholders.

Finally, President Bush on Friday picked John Hopkins University physicist Michael Griffin to lead the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to replace Sean O'Keefe, who left NASA earlier this year after three years in the top job to become chancellor of Louisiana State University. Dr. Griffin will become the space agency's 11th administrator.

For the past year, Dr. Griffin has headed the space department at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. It is the lab's second-largest department and specializes in projects for both NASA and the military. Dr. Griffin has a fairly incredible academic background, which includes a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and five master's degrees -- aerospace science, electrical engineering, applied physics, civil engineering and business administration. Before taking over the space department at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Griffin was president and chief operating officer of In-Q-Tel, a CIA-bankrolled venture-capital organization and, earlier in his career, Dr. Griffin worked at NASA as chief engineer and as deputy for technology at the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.

Last year, Dr. Griffin was a part of a team of experts who recommended that NASA retire the space shuttle by 2010, send astronauts back to the moon by 2020, and then mounting human expeditions to Mars and beyond. The report recommended retiring the space shuttle in order to accelerate work on a spaceship that could carry astronauts to the international space station and ultimately to the moon.

Posted by Tom at March 14, 2005 5:19 AM |


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