In this article, we see Who Owns Disney? Walt Disney is synonymous with family entertainment. It’s hard to imagine a world without Disney. However, it wasn’t always that way.
Here, we look at how Walt Disney went from being an entrepreneur and innovator to the most prolific creator of children’s entertainment the world has ever seen and how he built the most iconic and lucrative film and television studio in Hollywood.
We also explore who owns Disney today and what their involvement is in the company.
Who Owns Disney?
Here, we outline all the major owners of the Walt Disney Company.
21st Century Fox
Disney’s TV and film arm, Twenty-First Century Fox, has been a subsidiary of the conglomerate since 2015.
21st Century Fox acquired most of the major TV and movie studios to fend off a hostile takeover bid from media conglomerate Time Warner in the summer of 2016. They then began the long process of merging the businesses to form a single corporate entity that reflected the union between the two companies.
Some investors complained about this deal because they thought splitting the company would be better for long-term profit and shareholder value. However, this merger has been approved by nearly all relevant stakeholders, including shareholders, governments, and regulators.
Michael Eisner and Roy Disney (1984-2005)
Michael Eisner and Roy Disney are the founders of The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney was the company’s first Chairman and CEO until he died in 1966. Disney’s son Roy eventually took the reigns and led the company until his untimely death in 1991.
The following year, Eisner came on as an interim CEO until finally taking over the company in 1985.
Eisner was a former chairman and chief executive officer of ABC-TV and led The Walt Disney Company. The following year, he began a successful campaign to reshape its business model and transform it into a family entertainment giant.
Although he focused on the consumer, he also bought his brother’s sports cable channel and had Disney do the same.
Walt and Roy Disney Become CEOs of the Company
Despite his young age of 26, Walt Disney was already spending considerable time developing, producing, and directing his films. He had a little help from his brother Roy and their cousin Joe a.k.a. Jerry, but these roles were just profit-oriented in many ways.
By 1919, Disney became CEO of the Walt Disney Studio, and two years later, he hired a young, hardworking accountant named Ben Milam to become his production manager and help with finance.
Milam, who would later go on to create Walt Disney and Company with his brother Roy, made huge strides during his short stint at the company by booking large enough theater dates for the series of Mickey Mouse shorts to cover Disney’s salary, as well as generating enough cash to pay Disney $25,000 a year.
The Disneys and the Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company was originally founded in 1923 by Walt and Roy Disney. Walt Disney owned 60% of the company, and Roy Disney owned 40%.
In 1948, Roy Disney died and gave control of the company to his brother, Roy O. Disney. In 1954, the corporation was publicly traded and traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Even though Walt Disney Company became publicly traded in 1954, the structure of Walt’s will dictated that Walt would remain CEO and Chairman Emeritus until he died in 1966.
In 1966, Roy Disney handed over the day-to-day responsibilities of running the company to his son, Roy O. Disney, Jr. After Disney died in 1966, Roy O. Disney, Jr. took the position of President and CEO.
The Next Generation of Disneys
In February 2007, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (then 21st Century Fox) became the majority shareholder in Disney. However, in August 2009, Disney successfully took back the majority of the company from News Corp. The family-owned “Big Six” companies — Disney, News Corp., Viacom, CBS Corp., Time Warner, and Comcast — control the entertainment industry following the split.
Watch: How Disney’s 2018 Marvel Universe Came to Life
Disney also brought Paul Haggis on to its board in 2010. As the chief creative officer of the DreamWorks Animation film studio, Haggis helped create the first animated feature for DreamWorks since Shrek in 2004. He also produced the animated feature The Croods.
Disney’s Success and Innovation
Walt Disney made his fortune in the carnival and amusement park business in the 1920s. While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, he was inspired by the Erector Set and built the Pinewood Derby Racer, the Toy Car Racer, and the Electric Car Racer.
He managed the Union Station carnival from 1933-34. He made his first movie in 1934, and the Walt Disney Company was incorporated the next year. The following year, he built an amusement park named Disneyland and opened it in Burbank, CA.
In 1955, Disney purchased Lucasfilm Ltd., producer of the “Star Wars” franchise, and sold Disneyland to his brother Roy O. Disney for $18 million.
In 1963, Disney started with a $50 million investment, eventually earning around $100 million in 2014.
A Timeline of Notable Owners
1933 – 1925
1933 – 1940
Walt Disney and a team of business partners bought out the Perras Color film studio for $4,500,000, which they later renamed the Walt Disney Studios. Disney designed and produced animated shorts and features for the studio for three years, including Steamboat Willie (1928), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Aristocats (1970), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).
The first feature-length animated film in the United States, Snow White, and the Seven Dwarfs, was released.
Disney released his first full-length feature, Song of the South, a black-and-white film based on Maeterlinck and Son’s unpublished novel.
Walt Disney’s Early Years
Walt Disney was born in 1901 to a wealthy industrialist and inventor, Elias Disney. Walt spent his early years growing up with his family in Kansas and Nebraska.
When Walt was around 10 years old, he was sent to work in his father’s hardware store. While there, he began taking an interest in building models and cartooning. Walt’s work caught the eye of Disney’s factory foreman, who hired the young boy to design and paint faucets. Walt later became a designer at a dime store in Los Angeles. He used this job to sell his cartoons to newspapers.
However, he wasn’t just a self-taught artist and cartoonist. Walt worked as a chauffeur in his father’s car dealership for 10 years. His father would have him deliver cars to the rich and famous, including movie stars.
Walt Disney Starts To Lose Control
From the beginning of his career at a small animation studio in 1923, Disney came up with ideas and invented techniques for which he was awarded patents.
However, his empire didn’t begin to take off until he had the help of his brother Roy O. Disney in 1942 when Walt struck out on his own to create his animation studio.
Disney left the business with a $200,000 loan from his mother, at the time worth $4 million.
Roy was less than thrilled about his brother’s decision. He was terrified that he was risking his newfound wealth by going into the entertainment business. The Disney brothers knew they needed a fast-growing and well-funded company to compete with the likes of Warner Brothers and MGM. Disney went on to have success with short animated films like “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia.
Walt Disney and the Birth of Disney
Walt Disney was born in the Midwest on October 31, 1905. At that time, he was working as an illustrator for a small newspaper in Kansas. After suffering a head injury in a car accident, Disney’s health seriously declined, so he returned to Colorado to recover. But he didn’t want to be a curmudgeon in the house anymore, so he moved to Los Angeles to find work as a cartoonist.
Though his mother wanted him to work for a newspaper, he found work at the studio that would become Walt Disney Productions. Though he drew cartoons and backgrounds, his drawings weren’t enough to keep the studio’s business afloat. Then he decided to focus on creating animated features.
Walt Disney Studios
Disney was looking to find success as a producer of animation.
The Mouse House Turns Into An Entertainment Empire
Over two decades, Disney’s stock price and market value have gone from around $15 per share in 1971 to around $165 per share today. Â This is nothing short of stunning. The company is one of the largest and most powerful media companies in the world. Â And since the turn of the millennium, Disney has successfully maintained its dominance as the largest entertainment conglomerate. Â It’s a dynasty that has come to stay.
Here’s a look at who Disney is now working with:
Walt Disney Company was Established In December 1923
The company was originally named Laugh-O-Gram Studio, formed out of Walt Disney’s intent to start a production company dedicated to cartoons and comic strips. Â Walt’s father, Elias, was also a co-founder along with his brother Roy.
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