NEW YORK — He’s two years away from retiring, but there’s already speculation about who could succeed Michael Eisner as chief executive of The Walt Disney Co. And two big players in the apparel world are on the list — Gap chief executive Paul Pressler and Margaret Whitman, ceo of eBay Inc.
This story first appeared in the September 11, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Eisner said Friday he will step down from his post on Sept. 30, 2006, when his contract expires. He celebrates his 20th anniversary with Disney this month. In his letter to Disney board members, Eisner endorsed Disney president Robert Iger as a potential successor.
However, the board also has the option to look outside the company. Pressler was chairman of Disney’s global theme parks and resorts division prior to joining Gap in September 2002.
According to a September 2002 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, there doesn’t appear to be any provision that would bar Pressler from heading back to his old stomping grounds. The Gap employment agreement runs from Sept. 25, 2002 through Sept. 25, 2007. There are contractual restrictions pertaining to “other employment or compensation” while Pressler remains an employee of Gap. However, there is no provision that would penalize Pressler should he choose to leave Gap before the end of his employment agreement. The agreement specifies that, should Pressler resign, Gap compensation and benefits would cease on the effective date of his resignation.
“It’s highly logical that a company that knows him and helped him develop his skills and talents would be interested in looking at him again,” said Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates. “He’s done a credible job at Gap.”
A Gap spokeswoman said, “We don’t comment on speculation.”
Regarding Whitman, “Meg has repeatedly said that she has the best job in the world,” said a spokesman for eBay. “She loves eBay and she has no plans to leave.”
Whitman has been on Gap’s board since September 2003 and serves on two committees, compensation and management development, as well as grievance, nominating and social responsibilities. Perhaps Pressler will recommend her for the Disney job, if he doesn’t want it.