Disney rejected an activist investor play from Trian Fund Management CEO Nelson Peltz, who recently launched a campaign to obtain a seat on the company’s board of directors to address various corporate governance issues.
Trian, which holds a stake in Disney worth approximately $900 million, argued in a recent press release that shares are trading near an eight-year low even as the company benefits from significant branding and intellectual property advantages. Peltz said he would confront poor succession planning for management, excessive compensation, and lackluster cost discipline if he is granted a seat on the board. Disney recently made headlines for reinstating veteran former chief executive Bob Iger, now 71 years old, to replace would-be successor Bob Chapek, who had served in the post for two years.
The company said in a Tuesday regulatory filing that Peltz “does not understand” the company’s business and “lacks the skills and experience to assist the board in delivering shareholder value in a rapidly shifting media ecosystem.” The document added that current directors represent “the right board for shareholders,” claiming that they “deftly navigated” the lockdown-induced recession and “acted decisively” to address the leadership challenge.
Iger presided over a quintupling of Disney’s market capitalization between 2005 and 2020; he also oversaw the acquisitions of Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and 21st Century Fox. Although Trian said it has no plans to replace Iger, the filing from Disney cited a report claiming that Trian believes “Iger shouldn’t be back in control” of the company.
“Peltz has no track record in large cap media or tech” and “no solutions to offer for the evolving media landscape,” the document continued.
Despite the claim that Disney’s board of directors competently led the firm through the lockdowns, which shuttered theme parks and paused movie production, share prices for the company have fallen 35% over the past year against a 12% decline witnessed by the S&P 500 index through the same period. Among other concerning metrics, Disney reported a significant slowdown in new domestic subscriptions for flagship streaming service Disney+ after leaping into the fray of contentious social issues, as well as the failure of multiple movies that included same-sex attraction and were nevertheless oriented toward children.
Peltz did not express any intention to address the recent social and political stances made by Disney, according to a previous report from The Daily Wire, even as the company sees a concerning loss of trust among some consumers. Trian supports the environmental, social, and corporate governance movement, also known as ESG, which contends that businesses have a moral imperative to promote left-wing policy goals and has encouraged many of its portfolio companies to adopt ESG initiatives.
Chapek was pressured last year by activist employees within the company to oppose parental rights legislation in Florida that prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for students between kindergarten and third grade. In an exclusive poll from The Daily Wire, 64% of Americans, including 62% of Democrats and 57% of independents, supported the law.
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