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John Chen named as new Disney board member

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The CEO, chairman and president of Sybase, John Chen, has been named as the new board member of Disney to replace Stanley Gold who quit the Board in acrimony yesterday.

Mr Chen has been swiftly named to help bolster the monster company behind Mickey Mouse, DisneyWorld et al and present the vision of a board independent from Disney CEO and chairman Michael Eisner.

Mr Chen is one of the most highly regarded businessmen in the US and is widely credited with bringing Sybase back from the grave when he joined and became its president and COO in 1997, later becoming CEO in 1998.

He arrived to study in the US in 1973, barely able to speak a word of English. Despite this, he got a degree, became VP of two main arms of Unisys, VP and later president and COO of Pyramid Technology, Siemens Nixdorf board member and president and CEO of Siemens’ open enterprise division. Then he joined Sybase.

As such, the board - which met for three hours on Monday after a double resignation that knocked it off-kilter - hopes that Mr Chen will present the market with a safe pair of hands. And, of course, technical expertise in an area where Disney’s future is undoubtedly heading - Internet and computer technology.

Chen will be joined at the same time by Aylwin Lewis, the president of KFC and Pizza Hut - who, presumably, will have something to do with all the life-enhancing junk-food-and-cartoon tie-ins that parents love.

Mr Eisner has been under heavy pressure recently, and a boardroom row exploded at the weekend when Roy Disney, nephew of founder Walt, resigned accusing Mr Eisner of turning the company into a "rapacious, soulless” organisation that was "always looking for a quick buck".

However, Mr Eisner looks safe in his job at the moment. Investors still remember the fact that he prevented Disney from being taken over in 1984 and then proceeded to turn it from a $1.7 billion company to something no worth around $50 billion.

Eisner said of Chen’s appointment: "John Chen's more than two decades of success as a business leader, and his expertise in the field of technology, made him an excellent addition to the Disney board. From a strategic perspective, some of Disney's most significant long-term growth opportunities reside in the smart use of technology, and John will help the board ensure we're steering the company in the right direction."

Chen replied: "Disney is at the forefront of the convergence between media and technology, and it is exciting to be able to play a strategic role in that process.”

Lovely. ®

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