Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt, dies

Roy E. Disney in the 2000 Rose Parade

Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, passed away today, December 12, 2009. He was 79. He had been battling stomach cancer for the past year. Roy mostly kept a low profile, but on two occasions he led a shareholder revolt against Walt Disney’s son-in-law and Michael Eisner, respectively.

Roy was born in 1930 and grew up in the Disney company. His uncle, Walt and his father, Roy O. Disney were co-founders of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio just seven years prior to his birth. Mickey Mouse was "born" just two years before Roy.

He worked at Disney as an editor, screenwriter, and producer, but never had the chance to formally lead the company. He nevertheless had a huge impact on the company over the years. His first revolt led to the ouster of his cousin’s husband and the hiring of Michael Eisner. Roy re-joined the board and became the company’s vice chairman and chairman of the animation division. He oversaw the creation of such iconic films as "The Lion King".

Roy amassed quite a fortune through savvy investments in both Disney and other areas, ranking him by Forbes magazine as the 754th richest person in the world in 2007 with an estimate fortune of $1.3 billion.

He once again resigned his board seat and led a revolt, this time against Michael Eisner because he felt that quality was "slipping away from us" at the Disney theme parks. Eisner was replaced by Robert Iger who named Roy a board member emeritus and welcomed him back to company events.

Roy Disney bore a striking resemblance to his uncle Walt. He was also an active philanthropist, supporting the California Institute of Arts, personally matching a gift from the Walt Disney Company to establish an experimental theater space at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, and pledging $10 million to establish the Roy and Patricia Disney Cancer Center at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.

He will be missed.

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