Case | HBS Case Collection | November 2005

Michael Ovitz and The Walt Disney Company (A)

by Jay W. Lorsch and Alexis Chernak

Abstract

Faced with the need to hire a new president, The Walt Disney Co. pursued Michael Ovitz, a founder of the Creative Artist Agency. Although initially disinterested, Ovitz engaged in negotiations with Michael Eisner, CEO of The Walt Disney Co., in the summer of 1995 before accepting an offer. Ovitz officially began as president on October 1 of that year. While the hiring of Ovitz was at first heralded as a coup for Disney, Eisner and senior executives began to have doubts about Ovitz's fit with the company culture. By the summer of 1996, Eisner decided Ovitz had to be fired. He began conversations with members of the board of directors, who agreed Ovitz's contract should be terminated. Ovitz left the company at the end of the year with a sizable severance package.

Keywords: Corporate Governance; Management Teams; Selection and Staffing; Negotiation; Organizational Culture;

Citation:

Lorsch, Jay W., and Alexis Chernak. "Michael Ovitz and The Walt Disney Company (A)." Harvard Business School Case 406-065, November 2005.