Roy Disney, the nephew of WaltDisney Co. founder WaltDisney who was best known for revitalizing its animation unit and helping to oust longtime chief executive Michael Eisner, died on Wednesday at 79.
Disney, who had been ill with stomach cancer for a year, died at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California, the company said.
Starting out as an assistant film editor in 1953, Disney worked for more than half a century at the entertainment giant, where he was widely regarded as a fierce protector of the family`s legacy and a champion of animation.
He was the last Disney family member to work at the company, family spokesman Cliff Miller said.
"On behalf of everyone at Disney, we are saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague Roy E. Disney. He 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," Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said in a statement.
At the time of his death, Disney owned more than 16 million shares of common stock, which was worth $518 million at the close of trading on Wednesday, but retained no direct role in running the giant media company. He served as a consultant for Disney and a director emeritus for the board of directors.
The successful philanthropist, filmmaker and award-winning sailor helped to guide the studio with a string of animated box office hits including "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," and "The Lion King."
Disney was executive producer of "Fantasia/2000," a sequel to the 1940 Disney classic, and served in a similar capacity on a number of recent animated shorts.
Unhappy with the leadership of chief executive Ron Miller, Disney abruptly quit the company`s board of directors in 1984, touching off a series of events that ultimately brought the departure of Miller and his replacement by Eisner.