January 28, 2005 -- Disney management is so distraught over damaging
revelations in a book on CEO Michael Eisner that the public relations
head offered to resign, The Post has learned.

Sources say Disney obtained several chapters of James B. Stewart's
soon-to-be published book "Disney War" last week, and immediately put
their lawyers and spinmeisters into overdrive to try to get Stewart to
soften the portions most damaging to Eisner and his top deputy, Bob
Iger.

Sources say the publisher, Simon & Schuster, has no idea how the Mouse
House was able to obtain an advance copy of "Disney War," and is trying
to find out how it was leaked.

A spokeswoman for Simon & Schuster declined to comment beyond saying,
"The book will speak for itself when it's published."

The material was believed to be so damaging to Eisner that public
relations exec Zenia Mucha offered to resign — an offer that Eisner
refused. Sources said the move was spurred by the anticipated negative
public relations, and that as department head she felt she should take
the fall. Both top executives cooperated with Stewart on the book.

Mucha said she "can't confirm or deny" that she got an unauthorized
copy, adding, "I went through a normal fact-checking process."

She declined to comment on whether she offered to resign from Disney.



The hard-charging Mucha — known for her aggressive p.r. tactics — was
formerly an adviser to New York Gov. George Pataki.

The only public glimpse thus far of Stewart's exposé is an excerpt
this month in The New Yorker, which detailed the ill-fated relationship
between Eisner and his ex-No. 2, Michael Ovitz, the subject of a
high-profile shareholder lawsuit.

"Disney War" is set to hit store shelves March 7. Stewart, a Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporter, also wrote the Wall Street classic, "Den Of
Thieves."

Iger, Eisner's preferred successor, stands to suffer even more from
any negative portrayals since his boss has agreed to resign in
September 2006.

This partly explains Disney management's "overly harsh reaction,"
according to one source.

While Disney's board of directors has promised to conduct an
independent search for Eisner's successor — it has hired search firm
Heidrick & Struggles — management has been waging a pro-Iger campaign,
while the board has yet to seek out any outside candidates. The next
chief is expected to be named by June.

"I think the danger for Iger is that [management is] controlling the
process and not the board," said one industry source close to Disney.

The perception that a wide-ranging search is not being conducted could
ignite further outrage from disgruntled shareholders, as well as
Stanley Gold and Roy Disney, the former board members who resigned in
late 2003 to campaign for Eisner's ouster.

Disney and Gold largely succeeded in their efforts, as Eisner resigned
his chairmanship last March and later announced he would not continue
on as CEO beyond the terms of his contract.