The Walt Disney Co. stripped chief executive officer Michael Eisner of his chairmanship and gave it to board member George Mitchell, the former US Senate majority leader. In a stormy meeting Wednesday in Philadelphia, 43 percent of Disney's shareholders voted against reelecting Eisner to the post. He was, however, retained as CEO. The move was seen by analysts as an attempt to placate disgruntled investors led by former director Roy Disney (Walt Disney's nephew), who have been intensely critical of Eisner's leadership in recent years. Meanwhile, the company again rejected a hostile takeover bid by cable-TV powerhouse Comcast Corp., which last month proposed buying Disney for $54 billion. (Story, page 1.)
Eisner's fate was duplicated at oil-industry giant Royal Dutch/Shell, whose directors ousted Sir Philip Watts, its chairman, a year before his scheduled retirement. Watts and a top deputy were forced to resign amid investigations - one by the Securities and Exchange Commission - into the company's overstating of its oil and natural gas reserves. Royal Dutch/Shell jolted the financial world Jan. 9 with an announcement that it was lowering those estimates by 20 percent. Watts will be replaced by Jeroen van der Veer, who heads the Royal Dutch half of the company.
Trading was suspended in the shares of communications giant Telefónica SA of Spain Thursday amid reports that it is close to acquiring BellSouth's cellphone operations in Latin America for as much as $6 billion. Such a deal would make Telefónica Móviles, the company's cellphone subsidiary, the largest service provider in a region extending from Guatemala south to Chile. The current leader is Mexican-owned America Movil, which has 43.7 million subscribers.
Volvo was not commenting on a report that it will sell up to $2 billion worth of shares in Scania AB, Europe's largest builder of trucks. The financial reporting service Bloomberg.com, citing sources familiar with the matter, said the automaker and prospective buyer are discussing the sale but the latter couldn't be identified. It was not believed to be Volkswagen, however, because the German automaker has said it doesn't want to increase its stake in Scania at this time. Volvo attempted to buy Scania four years ago, but the deal was blocked by European Union regulators. Both companies are Swedish.