Franklin G. "Frank" Wells (March 4, 1932 – April 3, 1994) was an American businessman who served as President of the Walt Disney Company from 1984 until his death in 1994.
Life and career
Wells was born in Coronado, California. He graduated from Stanford Law School and became a lawyer. He was also a 1953 recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship, through which he obtained his BA at Oxford University.
Before his tenure with Disney, Wells had worked for Warner Bros. as its Vice President of West Coast in 1969, then in 1973 as President, and in 1977 as Vice Chairman until he left the company in 1982.
Disney directors Roy E. Disney, Stanley Gold, and Sid Bass had ousted President and CEO Ron W. Miller in 1984. The Disney board then recruited Wells to become Disney's President and Chief Operating Officer (1984–1994), along with Michael Eisner as Chairman and CEO, and Jeffrey Katzenberg as head of Walt Disney Studios. Wells was unique among the management troika in that he had the highest academic achievement. Wells, although the number two executive at Disney, reported to the board of directors and not Eisner.
Wells was an avid alpinist and came close, but did not achieve his goal of the Seven Summits, climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents: Kilimanjaro in Africa, Denali (Mount McKinley) in North America, Aconcagua in South America, Elbrus in Europe, Mount Everest in Asia, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, and Vinson in Antarctica. Only Everest eluded him, as bad weather forced his party to give up one day, 3000 feet before reaching the summit. His partner in the Seven Summits attempt, Dick Bass, an entrepreneur who developed Snowbird ski resort in Utah, made it up all seven peaks, the first man to do so. At the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Wells' love of mountain-climbing is honored with exploration equipment emblazoned with the words "Wells Expedition," which can be noticed during the ride's downhill descent, as well as on a window on Main Street USA honoring him.
Wells died in a helicopter crash on Easter 1994 while returning from a ski trip in Nevada's Ruby Mountains. He was a good friend of Clint Eastwood, who had been skiing with Wells that weekend. Eastwood left in his own helicopter just an hour before Wells' departure.
Wells was buried in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. Eastwood sang a tribute of the Beatles "Hey Jude" to him, which Wells liked to sing on the slopes. The Lion King, which came out the summer after Wells' death, includes a dedication right before the Walt Disney Pictures logo appears (though later versions of the film – such as the 2003 Special Edition and the 2011 Diamond Edition – have the dedication at the end of the credits); as well as the named building housing the Disney Archives at Walt Disney Studios.