Childhood & Early Life
Michael Dammann Eisner was born on March 7, 1942, in Mount Kisco, Westchester, New York, United States of America, to Margaret (nee, Dammann) and Lester Eisner Jr.
His was a wealthy Jewish family. His mother was the president of the 'Irvington Institute,' and his father was a lawyer and the regional administrator of the 'United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.' Eisner grew up with his sister, Margot Freedman.
The family lived on Park Avenue, Manhattan, New York. He attended the 'Allen-Stevenson School' in New York from kindergarten to ninth grade.
Michael Eisner graduated from 'The Lawrenceville School,' Lawrence Township, Mercer County, New Jersey, U.S.
At the age of 16, he worked as a camp counselor and made $100 in 8 weeks.
In 1964, he earned his BA degree in English, literature, and theater from the 'Denison University,' Granville, Ohio, U.S.
Michael Eisner went to the 'Keewaydin Canoe Camp' in his youth, and it had a tremendous influence on him and his career.
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Eisner took up a summer job as a page with the 'National Broadcasting Company,' an American radio and TV network. The company later absorbed him as a full-time employee.
He later moved to 'CBS,' another American radio and TV network, and started working in the programming department.
In 1966, Michael Eisner was hired by Barry Diller of the 'American Broadcasting Company.' He was then appointed as an assistant to the national programming director.
He was instrumental in ‘ABC’s rise from the number-three position to the top spot in the category of primetime, daytime, and children's shows, with highly popular shows such as 'Happy Days,' 'Laverne & Shirley,' 'Barney Miller,' 'Rich Man, Poor Man,' and 'Roots.'
His growth was mercurial. In 1971, Michael Eisner was promoted to the post of vice president for daytime programming. Five years later, he was made the senior vice president of primetime production and development.
By 1976, Diller had become the chairman of 'Paramount Pictures Corporation.' He recruited his protégé, Eisner, to serve as the president and CEO of the company’s movie studio.
During his tenure with ‘Paramount,’ the studio made many commercially successful and highly acclaimed movies such as 'Saturday Night Fever,' 'Grease,' Star Trek movie Franchise,' Airplane,' 'American Gigolo,' 'Ordinary People,' 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' 'An Officer and a Gentleman' 'Flashdance,' 'Terms of Endearment,' 'Beverly Hills Cop,' and 'Footloose.' The success of the movies catapulted ‘Paramount’ to the number-one spot among movie studios, in terms of revenue-making.
The TV wing of ‘Paramount,’ too, did quite well under him, through sitcoms such as 'Cheers' and 'Family Ties' and the syndicated entertainment newsmagazine 'Entertainment Tonight.’
After Diller quit ‘Paramount’ as its studio chief on September 30, 1984, Michael Eisner was hoping to replace him. However, he was rejected by the management.
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The same year, Michael Eisner was hired by Roy E. Disney and Sid Richardson Bass, as the CEO and chairman of the board of 'The Walt Disney Company.'
In 1987, Michael Eisner started presenting the company's flagship anthology TV series 'The Wonderful World of Disney.' He hosted the show until 2002 and soon became a household name. He was especially popular with children. People identified him as the face of the ‘Disney’ brand.
During the latter half of the 1980s and the early 1990s, ‘Disney’ produced movies such as 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills,' 'The Color of Money, and 'Pretty Woman.' The company also came up with popular animated films such as 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit,' 'The Little Mermaid,' 'Beauty and the Beast,' and 'The Lion King.'
Under his leadership, ‘Disney’ expanded its offerings by acquiring companies such as 'Miramax,' ‘ABC,’ and ‘ESPN.’ ‘Disney’ also purchased the rights of 'The Muppets’ franchise.
In the early 1990s, Michael Eisner and his partners formulated ‘The Disney Decade,' a strategy to expand the theme-parks business, create new movies, and make new media investments.
Toward the middle of the 2000s, Eisner's leadership came to be criticized. He, too, did not like the micromanaging style and the lack of his succession plan in the organization.
On March 13, 2005, Michael Eisner declared that he would resign from his post and handed over the responsibilities to his successor, Bob Iger. He was relieved on September 30, 2005.
He launched an investment firm named 'The Tornante Company, LLC' in 2005.
In early 2006, Michael Eisner was hired by ‘CNBC’ to host his eponymous talk show ‘Conversations with Michael Eisner.' The show was terminated in 2009.
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His investment company launched 'Vuguru,' a studio that produces and distributes video content for the internet and portable media devices.
The critically acclaimed 'Netflix' adult animated series 'BoJack Horseman' was funded by his firm.
He is on the boards of many organizations, including the 'California Institute of the Arts,' the 'Denison University,' the 'American Hospital of Paris Foundation,' the 'Aspen Institute,' the 'Yale School of Architecture Dean's Council' the 'Michael D. Eisner School of Education,' and the 'Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center.'
Eisner's semi-autobiographical book 'Work in Progress' was published in 1998. The book spoke about his work experience in the media industry, his childhood, and his formative years.
Another book written by him, ‘Camp,' was released in 2005. It was about his stay and learnings at the 'Keewaydin Canoe Camp.'
His third book, 'Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed,' was published in 2010. As the title of the book suggests, it profiled the partnerships of people who have achieved exemplary success in their careers.
In 2001, Eisner received the 'Honor Award' from the 'National Building Museum.'
The 'California State University' named its college of education after him.
He was conferred with the 'UJA-Federation of New York's ‘Steven J. Ross Humanitarian of the Year Award' in 2004.
‘Team Disney – The Michael D. Eisner Building,' which houses the corporate headquarters of ‘Disney,’ was dedicated to him in January 2006.
Michael Eisner was honored with a “star” on the 'Hollywood Walk of Fame' in 2008.
On March 1, 2012, he was inducted into the 'Television Academy Hall of Fame.'
Family & Personal Life
Eisner married Jane Breckenridge on June 24, 1967. He had met her soon after his graduation in 1964.
Jane is a follower of Unitarianism (a sect of Protestant Christians) and is of Scottish and Swedish descent.
The couple is blessed with three sons: Breck, Eric, and Anders. They also have three grandchildren: Noah, Eloise, and Grace.
In 1996, he and his wife launched the not-for-profit organization 'The Eisner Foundation,' to improve the conditions of vulnerable children and senior citizens in Los Angeles County, California, U.S.
He launched an annual award worth $100,000, called 'The Eisner Prize,' in 2011. It is given away by his charity foundation.