Son-in-law of Walt Dis­ney; firm’s ex-CEO

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Lau­rence Darmiento

Ron W. Miller, a for­mer USC foot­ball star who mar­ried a daugh­ter of Walt Dis­ney and later be­came chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Bur­bank entertainment gi­ant, died Satur­day. He was 85.

Miller died in Napa, where he owned Sil­ver­ado Vine­yards. He served as pres­i­dent and later CEO of Dis­ney from 1978 to 1984, when he was pushed out in a power strug­gle that left Frank Wells and Michael Eis­ner in charge.

“Ev­ery­one at the Walt Dis­ney Co. is deeply sad­dened by the pass­ing of Ron Miller,” com­pany Chair­man and CEO Bob Iger said in a state­ment. “His life and legacy are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with our com­pany and the Dis­ney fam­ily be­cause he was such a vi­tal part of both, as our CEO and Walt’s sonin-law.”

The com­pany cred­ited him as be­ing a driv­ing force be­hind such ini­tia­tives as Ep­cot Cen­ter, Touch­stone Pictures and the Dis­ney Chan­nel. “Miller helped nav­i­gate a dif­fi­cult pe­riod of change, lay­ing the foun­da­tion for a broader rev­enue base to sup­port Walt’s vi­sion for decades to come,” the state­ment said.

Miller mar­ried into the Dis­ney clan af­ter meet­ing Walt Dis­ney’s daugh­ter, Diane, on a blind date when she was 20 and he was 21 and a mem­ber of the USC foot­ball team, ac­cord­ing to a com­pany blog post.

The cou­ple mar­ried in 1954, and Miller served in the Army and later played for the Los An­ge­les Rams be­fore he came to work at Walt Dis­ney Stu­dios in 1957. Miller’s first job was serv­ing as an as­sis­tant on the clas­sic movie “Old Yeller.”

Miller was named pres­i­dent in 1978 and chief ex­ec­u­tive in 1983. He was forced out in 1984, a dif­fi­cult year dur­ing which Dis­ney was fac­ing a hostile takeover bid from Wall Street raider Saul Stein­berg and his Reliance Group Hold­ings.

The Dis­ney board voted in June 1984 to buy out Stein­berg’s 11% share for $325 mil­lion — earn­ing the raider a nearly $60-mil­lion profit — but share­holder lawsuits later accused direc­tors of vi­o­lat­ing their fidu­ciary duty by agree­ing to the deal. Dis­ney and Stein­berg set­tled the case in 1989 by pay­ing $45 mil­lion to share­hold­ers.

Af­ter leav­ing the com­pany, Miller moved with his wife to the Napa Val­ley to run Sil­ver­ado Vine­yards. Later, the cou­ple helped es­tab­lish the Walt Dis­ney Fam­ily Mu­seum in the Pre­sidio area of San Fran­cisco. He served on its board of direc­tors and be­came pres­i­dent in 2013.

Miller is sur­vived by his chil­dren Christo­pher Miller, Joanna Miller, Ta­mara Diane Miller, Jen­nifer Goff, Wal­ter Elias Dis­ney Miller, Ron­ald Miller and Pa­trick Miller, and 17 grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren. His wife, Diane, died in 2013.

Do­na­tions may be made to a me­mo­rial fund that Dis­ney Fam­ily Mu­seum has es­tab­lished in honor of the cou­ple. Do­na­tions will sup­port the mu­seum’s ed­u­ca­tion ef­forts.

Ser­vices will be pri­vate, and the mu­seum has not yet planned a pub­lic commemoration.

Los An­ge­les Times

FAM­ILY MAN Ron W. Miller is shown in 1956 with wife Diane, daugh­ter of Walt Dis­ney, and two of their chil­dren. The cou­ple met on a blind date and mar­ried in ’54.

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