Roy Disney, the son and nephew of The Walt Disney Company founders who twice led shareholder revolts which shook up the family business, died today. He was 79.
The Walt Disney Co announced that Disney died in Newport Beach, California, after fighting stomach cancer.
Although he generally stayed out of the spotlight, Roy Disney did not hesitate to lead a successful campaign in 1984 to oust Walt Disney’s son-in-law after concluding he was leading the company in the wrong direction.
Nearly 20 years later, he launched another successful shareholders revolt, this time against Michael Eisner, the man he had helped bring in after the previous ousting.
Disney, born in 1930, had practically grown up with the company. His uncle Walt Disney and his father, Roy Disney, had co-founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio seven years before, later renaming it The Walt Disney Co.
Two years before he was born, the company gave birth to its cartoon character Mickey Mouse. While Walt was the company’s creative genius, his brother was the one in charge of the company’s finances.
Starting in the 1950s, the younger Roy Disney worked for years in the family business as an editor, screenwriter and producer. Two short films he worked on were nominated for Academy Awards: the 1959 Mysteries of the Deep, which he wrote, was nominated as best live action short, and the 2003 film Destino, which he co-produced, was nominated as best animated short.
Despite his heritage, Roy Disney never got the chance to lead the company as his father and uncle had. But as an investor who grew his Disney stock into a billion-dollar fortune, he ultimately had a huge impact on the company’s destiny.
In 1984, dissatisfied with the leadership Walt’s son-in-law Ron Miller was providing, Disney resigned from the company’s board of directors and sought investors to back a bid to install new management. (Miller was the husband of Diane Disney Miller, Roy’s cousin.)
His efforts resulted in the hiring of Eisner and Frank Wells, who led the company as a team until Wells died in 1994.
During that time, Disney rejoined the board and rose to become the company’s vice-chairman and chairman of its animation division, where he helped oversee the making of such hit films as 1994’s The Lion King.
He also became a savvy investor over the years, forming Shamrock Holdings with his friend and fellow Disney board member Stanley Gold in 1978. The fund grew to become a major investor in California property, the state of Israel and other entertainment and media companies.
In his spare time he bought a castle in Ireland and indulged his passion for yacht racing, setting several speed records. For years he was a fixture at the Transpacific Yacht Race between California and Hawaii.
Born in Los Angeles on January 10, 1930, Roy Edward Disney was Roy and Edna Disney’s only child. As an adult, he often wore a moustache, which gave him a striking resemblance to his legendary uncle.
After graduating from Pomona College in 1951, he briefly worked at NBC as an assistant editor on the Dragnet TV series.
After joining Disney, he worked on a series of live action short features, including The Living Desert and The Vanishing Prairie.