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Eisner loses support of key investor

LOS ANGELES -- Embattled Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner lost the support yesterday of the nation's largest public pension fund, a big Disney investor that called the company's performance "dismal."

The California Public Employees' Retirement System said it would withhold its votes for Eisner's reelection to the company's board.

"We have lost complete confidence in Mr. Eisner's strategic vision and leadership in creating shareholder value in the company," said Sean Harrigan, president of the Calpers board of administration.

Calpers is the 29th-largest shareholder of Disney, with 9.9 million shares.

Its statement came hours after Glass Lewis & Co., a San Francisco research firm that advises institutional shareholders, recommended that holders of Disney stock withhold their votes for Eisner.

The two announcements gave strength to efforts by former board members Stanley Gold and Roy E. Disney to oust Eisner. The two have mounted an aggressive campaign to persuade shareholders to withhold votes from Eisner and three other board members at the company's annual meeting Wednesday in Philadelphia.

"The Disney board has been notoriously insular, famously gullible, and blindly loyal to Mr. Eisner," Glass Lewis said in a report released yesterday. "In our view, Disney's board has come a long way, but not far enough."

Disney did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The proxy firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommended two weeks ago that shareholders withhold their votes from Eisner.

Gold and Disney say that Eisner has mismanaged the company since 1994 and squelched board criticism. Eisner has been CEO since 1984.

Cable giant Comcast Corp. made a takeover bid for Disney on Feb. 11. The Disney board unanimously rejected the offer as too low and expressed support for current management.

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