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Walt's nephew, Roy E. Disney dies at 79

LOS ANGELES — Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney whose powerful behind-the-scenes influence on the Walt Disney Co. led to the departure of former chief Michael Eisner, has died. He was 79.

The company announced that Mr. Disney died Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif., after a yearlong bout with stomach cancer.

Company president and chief executive Bob Iger said Mr. Disney was "much more than a valued 56-year company veteran."

"Roy's true passion and focus were preserving and building upon the amazing legacy of Disney animation that was started by his father and uncle," Iger said in a statement. "Roy's commitment to the art of animation was unparalleled and will always remain his personal legacy and one of his greatest contributions to Disney's past, present and future."

Although he generally stayed out of the spotlight, Roy Disney didn't hesitate to lead a successful campaign in 1984 to oust Walt Disney's son-in-law after concluding he was leading the company in the wrong direction.

Nearly 20 years later, he launched another successful shareholders revolt, this time against Eisner, the man he'd helped bring in after the previous ouster.

Born in 1930, Roy Edward Disney was Roy and Edna Disney's only child and had practically grown up with the company. His uncle Walt Disney and his father, Roy O. Disney, had cofounded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio seven years before, later renaming it the Walt Disney Co. Starting in the 1950s, he worked for years in the family business as an editor, screenwriter and producer. Two short films he worked on were nominated for Academy Awards.

Walt's nephew, Roy E. Disney dies at 79 12/16/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 9:23pm]
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