Baseball, ice hockey and Topps cards: Michael Eisner’s sporting credentials

editorial image
Have your say

Would-be Pompey owner Michael Eisner is no stranger to sports management.

As boss of Disney he played a key role in the Los Angeles Angels baseball team and in the formation of the ice hockey franchise Mighty Ducks of Anaheim - the only sports team created from a movie.

And two years after quitting as chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company in 2005, he acquired with partners Topps Company, the bubble-gum and collectibles firm, which produces Premier League player cards as well as similar souvenirs of baseball, ice hockey and wrestling icons.

For lifelong New York Yankees fan, Disney’s purchase in 1998 of the Los Angeles Angels was said to be a baseball dream come true for Eisner, although he was not a regular visitor to matches at Edison International Field.

When he was there, he was reported to have hosted stars including Kevin Costner and Reese Witherspoon in his executive box.

The Angels were not though as successful as the Yankees and their legendary players in the post-war era.

‘I started going to baseball games at Yankee Stadium when Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle were playing and Bobby Brown was the third baseman’ Eisner said in an interview before Disney sold the Angels in 2005. ‘I went with my grandfather, and he’d point to left field at the advertisement he wrote.’

With Eisner’s involvement, the Angels won their first World Series victory in 2002.

Eisner’s other major sporting involvement in his Disney role was with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who remain are the only sports team in the US to be named after a brand - Disney’s successful hockey movie franchise The Mighty Ducks.

Again, involvement in ice hockey was a childhood dream come true for Eisner, who grew up supporting the New York Rangers.

Just weeks after The Mighty Ducks film was released in 1992, Walt Disney was awarded a National Hockey League expansion team.

It was good news not only for Eisner but for his three sons, all of whom played the sport.

He told Time magazine: ‘We’d made a lot of sports films and a hockey film seemed like a good thing to do. I was following my sons around in hockey, so I understood about junior hockey, and I understood about professional hockey, and I certainly understood about California hockey.’

Disney ran the team for 12 years before the franchise was sold in 2005 and the team name changed to The Anaheim Ducks.

Eisner’s other major contribution to North American sports was his decision in 1995 that Disney should buy for $19bn CapCities/ABC, which included sports broadcaster ESPN. He later described the purchase as ‘one of the best acquisitions maybe of that whole century.’