Integrity Matters
February 18, 2004

Mickey Mouse battles Comcast – Could deal hurt the reputation of Walt Disney?

Question: (E-093)

Dear Jim:

What happens to the integrity of the Mickey Mouse brand if Disney Corp. sells to Comcast? I have grown up believing in the quality and the integrity of the Disney promise: child-friendly and family-centered entertainment. What might be at risk to the Disney image with Comcast's likely unrelenting drive for immediate profits if it succeeds in closing the deal?


We cannot know for certain what will happen to the integrity of the Mickey Mouse brand – down the road – no matter who owns it. As far as the Comcast's impact on the Disney image, that too will depend upon the leadership of Comcast, the demands of its investors and the buying habits of those who choose Disney products and services.

However, Integrity appears to be at the very heart of Comcast's battle for control of the Disney organization. An African proverb states: "When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers." In this instance, with Comcast and Disney as the heavyweights doing battle, the world of high finance, brinksmanship and sophisticated bargaining may be more the issue than protecting the innocence of Mickey Mouse and the long history of making PG movies and instructive videos – safe for viewing by any member of the family. This battle may be more about shaping media influence than caring for the needs of future generations of young people who may have never fallen in love with a Mouseketeer or sobbed when Old Yeller was hurt.

Posturing by these power-brokers is certainly a part of this "dance" that has captured the attention of the viewing public.

Depending upon who "blinks" first, stock prices can determine how a controlling bid can become a minority position.

Depending upon which stock given investors own, they might more easily be influenced on which side they back with reference to what is the right thing to do regarding the Disney deal. Comcast is bidding for one of the entertainment industry's top names, whose assets include not only Mickey Mouse and Disneyland; but also the ABC network, ESPN and classic films such as "The Lion King."

If Comcast is successful, it will be able to leverage Disney's wealth of history, materials and intellectual property to build digital entertainment and video-on-demand systems.

For those who have visited Disneyland parks and enjoyed the family-oriented nature of the brand, it is not surprising, at least for those on the outside who don't assess the raw economics of the situation - that Disney's board of directors "unanimously" rejected Comcast's $48 billion, all stock offer.

Not surprising because the brand of Disney seems warm and personal. Comcast's image, so far, appears built upon hardware, technology and financial transactions.

Just as we can learn from the African proverb, the destruction of the grass is certain when elephants do battle, and the situation is similar to the suffering of values that is likely for the next generation when "corporate titans" decide to enter into a zero-sum game of control, without having provided the intellectual framework (including high-quality materials) to sustain the reputation that was originated by Walt Disney and those who were loyal to his priorities and values.

Even with any flaws in Disney's leadership (past and present), the question remains: Is this offer by Comcast about the dollars or about the risk of violating the cultural integrity of our society?

Home Page | About Us | Ask Bracher | Services | Resources | Contact Us

©Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership. All Rights Reserved.
1400 Munras Avenue ~ Monterey, California 93940