3. The Walt Disney Company
Revenues 2012: $ 42.278 billion (€ 32.906 billion)
The Walt Disney Company is currently the world’s second largest media and entertainment company and includes the Walt Disney film studios and their subsidiary Touchstone, film distributor Buena Vista International, ABC (American Broadcasting Company) – one of the three largest television channels in the United States of America, numerous niche channels such as Disney Channel, Jetix, Toon Disney and Playhouse Disney, American sports channel ESPN as well as theme parks all over the world.
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521, USA
Branches: Film, free-TV/pay-TV-channels, television production, licensing, TV stations, video/DVD, radio, videogames, record labels, book publishing, magazines, merchandising, theme parks, hotels.
Legal form: Aktiengesellschaft
Financial year: 10/01 - 9/30
Founding year: 1923 (Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio), 1986 (Walt Disney Company)
Revenues ($ Mio.)
Profit (loss) after taxes ($ Mio.)
Share price(in $, end of year)
Dividend(per share in $)
Parks & Resorts
Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company
- Andy Bird, Chairman Walt Disney International
- Alan Braverman, Senior Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, The Walt Disney Company
- Ronald L. Iden, Senior Vice President, Global Security
- Kevin Mayer, Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Business Development and Technology Group, The Walt Disney Company
- Christine M. McCarthy, Executive Vice President, Corporate Finance and Real Estate and Treasurer, The Walt Disney Company
- Zenia Mucha, Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company
- Jayne Parker, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
- James A. Rasulo, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, The Walt Disney Company
- Brent Woodford, Senior Vice President, Planning and Control, The Walt Disney Company
- Alan F. Horn, Chairman The Walt Disney Studios
- Thomas O. Staggs, Chairman Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide
- Anne M. Sweeney, Co-Chairman Disney Media Networks, President Disney ABC Television Group
- John D. Skipper, Co-Chairman Disney Media Networks, President ESPN Inc.
- George W. Bodenheimer, Executive Chairman ESPN Inc.
- Robert A. Chapek, President Disney Consumer Products
- James A. Pitaro, Co-President Disney Interactive Media Group
Board of Directors:
- Susan Arnold, former President, Procter & Gamble
- Robert W. Matschullat, former CEO The Clorox Company
- Fred Langhammer, The Estee Lauder Companies Inc.
- John E. Pepper, Jr., Underground Railroad Freedom Center
- John S. Chen, Sybase Inc.
- Aylwin B. Lewis, former President, Potbelly Sandwich Works
- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook
- Judith L. Estrin, JLABS, LLC
- Monica C. Lozano, ImpreMedia, LLC
- Orin C. Smith, former President, Starbucks Corporation
- Robert A. Iger, Walt Disney Company
Biggest shareholders: Steve Jobs Estate (7%), Walt Disney family (ca. 5%), Sid Richardson Bass/Lee Marshall Bass/Perry Richardson Bass 4%), Berkshire Hathaway, Capital Group Inc., Disney-Management (among others Michael Eisner und Thomas S. Murphy, ca. 2%).
It all began in 1923 in a back room in Hollywood. Here, 21 year old Walter (“Walt”) Elias Disney and his brother Roy founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, which became Walt Disney Studios only three years later. Another two years later, in 1928, Disney’s first Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Steamboat Willie’ found its way into the cinemas. Forthwith, the mouse was the key figure and starting point for the elaborate merchandise business of the Disney Company. Yet, animated feature films such as ‘Snow White’ or ‘Bambi’ were great successes in their own regard too – both in cinema and in terms of merchandise. Another cornerstone of Disney: The first ‘Disneyland’ opened in California in 1955. Since the fifties, the company established itself in the television business with their ‘Disneyland’ show and a ‘Mickey Mouse Club’, initially on the ABC Network.
A guarantee for the seamless conversion chain of the Disney Company is the strong brand that is Disney. A strong marketing philosophy had already been in the works under the regime of founding father Walt Disney. ‘Uncle Walt’, who grew up under meagre circumstances on a farm in Missouri, was fond of the intact and purist world, which he had no chance of experiencing himself. Eroticism and violence were taboo: Disney was all about wholesome family entertainment.
Until his death in 1966, Walt Disney shaped the company through his wealth of ideas. However, subsequently the ever-present ‘Ghost of Walt’ hampered the development of Disney. Modernization kept being postponed for quite some time, actors and authors considered Disney too dusty and old fashioned. Promising projects such as Spielberg’s ‘ET’ had been rejected and an array of unsuccessful films following the familiar patterns produced instead. The Disney Company started to tremble and struggled through a deep-rooted crisis in the 1980ies.
The share price fell low and a hostile takeover with a subsequent sell out loomed ahead. However, the Disney leadership could win over Texan real estate mogul Sid Bass in 1984. ‘Team Disney’- formed around manager Michael Eisner (former Paramount) and Frank Wells (former Warner Bros.) - turned the tides and the company flourished again – and expanded. A decisive milestone was the takeover of the Capital Cities / ABC Group in 1997. The 19 billion US Dollar deal secured Disney’s control over numerous TV channels, including the national network ABC and sports channel ESPN.
Disney boss Eisner enjoyed the reputation of being one of the hardest ‘corporate warriors’. Yet, the man who saved the entertainment company in the eighties did not deliver the necessary successes. On top of that came management mishaps, such as the abysmal planning of prestige project ‘Eurodisney’ (Paris). Eisner was also criticised for his complacent attitude towards his creative productions partners such as Miramax and Pixar. Miramax was taken over by Disney in 1993 and responsible for Academy Award winning films such as ‘Shakespeare in Love’, ‘Chicago’ and the classics by Quentin Tarantino. ‘Pixar’, which still belonged to computer manufacturer Apple, produced box office hits such as ‘Toy Story’ or ‘Monsters Inc.’, which were distributed by Disney.
The end of 2004 saw the advent of the shareholders’ revolution, led by Disney nephew Roy E. Disney and major investor Stanley Gold. The choice for Eisner’s successor fell on Disney insider Robert Iger in 2005. The former weatherman and TV manager earned his laurels at ABC and worked himself up the ranks at Disney, most recently as COO by Michael Eisner’s side. Critics dub Iger as ‘more of the same’ and lament the missed chance for a new beginning for Disney. So far, the results speak for Iger, who is very familiar with the very specific Disney culture. He is known to be a smart, shy businessperson, who tends to lead the company in a team- and consortium based rather than autocratic manner.
Iger’s first order of business was to reconcile with Pixar boss Steve Jobs. Despite the fact that an extension of the joint cooperation agreement had not been very likely under Eisner, Pixar went on to became part of the Walt Disney Company under Iger’s leadership in 2006. By taking over Pixar, the Disney CEO not only made sure to bring in the most successful production company for animated film, he also made Steve Jobs - who owns Pixar with a 50.1 percent share and is a visionary entrepreneur in his own right - part of the team. At the same time, Jobs wass the strongest private shareholder of the Disney Company, owning 7 percent – with consequences: Disney closely cooperates with Apple and Disney’s films are comprehensively represented in the iTunes store for iPhones, iPods and iPads.
As of today, Disney and its ABC branch are one of the world’s leading producers of TV formats, which are sold worldwide, such as ‘Lost’, ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ or ‘Alias’. Additionally, the Disney channels enjoy great success with the teenage hit series ‘Hannah Montana’. Even educational channels are part of the entertainment company’s portfolio: Disney Junior, an US pre school program is scheduled to launch in 2011. Disney’s television offshoot ESPN is expanding as well and is well represented all over the world with its sports channels, many of which are available on pay TV. Also, ESPN-W, a platform that is tailored especially towards female athleticism is in the works.
After a few detours, Disney recently went back to using his own brand as the focal point of its film activities. Therefore, Disney dissolved the film labels which were primarily concerned with the distribution of adult entertainment: Hollywood Pictures has not been active since 2007 and Buena Vista International was renamed to Walt Disney Motion Pictures and following a transitional phase, Touchstone will only function as distributional branch for a deal with Dreamworks Pictures, instead of being a stand-alone business. Furthermore, Disney looks to strengthen its self-claimed ‘Franchise Management’: A focus on marketing and distribution. First finished films, which had merely been supervised by the Disney subsidiaries, were ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Toy Story’. Disney also relies on in-house division Disneynature, which will be producing nature documentations for cinemas. Even the sport genre will be massively expanded by own administration: ESPN films, which cover sport stars and sport events.
All online activities are bundled under the Disney Interactive Media Group. Disney’s Internet presence is planned to be developed into a kind of ‘Facebook for Kids’ and serve as ‘Front door to the world of Disney’, which includes the Club Penguin online community. There, kids can chat and play within a world that is populated by penguins in return for a fee. The website, which was started in 2005, has so far been particularly successful in Canada, the United States of America and Great Britain, but Disney is looking to extend their offer to other regions as well. Furthermore, Disney plans a shopping tour on a large scale and founded investment company Steamboat Ventures for this very purpose and named it after the first Mickey Mouse cartoon.
The Theme Parks – located in Orlando (USA), Paris (France) and Hong Kong (China) amongst others, generated approximately 30 percent of the company’s revenue. Their problem: The success depends, just like the whole of the travel industry, on the economic situation. Disney is still developing the segment further: The company’s sixth theme park is scheduled to open its gates in Shanghai by 2014, in coordination with the Chinese government. The company has also envisaged Melbourne (Australia) and Johor (Indonesia) as potential locations for new parks and also operates the Disney Cruise Line, an in-house cruise business.
Disney Publishing Worldwide is considered one of the world’s largest publishers for children’s books in the world. Ever since Deborah Dugan’s accession to the president’s office in 2002, the publisher – which serves a monthly readership of more than a hundred million – has enjoyed an annual growth rate in the double-digit range.
A big prospect of Disney is the video game sector. Even though the economic relevance for the company – as compared to other divisions – may not be overly high as of yet, the company expects high growths rates. Therefore, Disney has founded numerous development studios as well as incorporated existing PC game developers, including Avalanche Software, Fall Line Studio, Propaganda Games, Black Rock Studio and Junction Point Studios under one roof at Disney Interactive Studios. Another coup was the take over of Chinese PC game developer Gamestar.
For years, Disney has been very successful with its musical division Buena Vista Theatrical Productions. Productions, which have been inspired by Disney’s animated films such as ‘The Beauty and the Beast’ or ‘The Lion King’ are being staged on Broadway (inter alia).
Disney opened up another business branch with the introduction of Disney Mobile. Since June 2006, the company offered its own mobile communication service, which makes information about the kids’ telephone habits available to the parents. On top of that, the latter can locate their offspring with a respective second phone via GPS and can always be in the know as to their kids’ whereabouts. In order to offer in-house mini-programs (‘Apps’) for modern mobile phones, Disney took over Californian app developer Tapulous.
Ranking - Top 50 (2012)
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- The Hearst Corporation