The clash between Walt Disney and activist investor Nelson Peltz intensified as the hedge fund manager asserted that his nominees for the entertainment giant's board of directors were better equipped to navigate the post-CEO Bob Iger era than the current members. Disney scheduled the shareholder meeting for April 3, providing investors an opportunity to influence the company's future direction.
Despite Disney's assurance that Iger, 72, will depart by the end of 2026, Peltz remains dissatisfied, advocating for cost-cutting measures, a profitable streaming business, improved movie studio performance, and enhanced succession planning.
Peltz, an octogenarian billionaire, emphasized in a letter to investors that Disney's "strategic missteps" can be attributed to its board. Trian Fund Management, Peltz's firm, filed a regulatory statement proposing the replacement of Disney directors Michael Froman and Maria Elena Lagomasino with Peltz and former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo. Trian argued that, based on Disney's criteria, Froman and Lagomasino lack essential skills in succession planning, media, entertainment, and strategic transformation, while Peltz and Rasulo possess expertise in all crucial areas aligning with Disney's strategy.
In response, Disney released a statement endorsing its 12 nominees as the most qualified to generate shareholder value, urging investors to reject Trian's candidates. Disney contended that Peltz lacks media experience and has not presented strategic ideas, labeling Rasulo's perspective as "stale" since his departure in 2015.
Moreover, Disney distanced itself from the three board candidates proposed by Blackwells Capital, another investor generally supportive of Iger's cost-cutting efforts. Disney argued that Blackwells' nominees lack the necessary talent, skill, or expertise for driving growth.
Disney sought to address concerns about its succession planning in an updated proxy filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company detailed extensive engagement with its largest shareholders, holding nearly 100 conversations about leadership succession. The succession planning committee convened six times in the previous year, adding James Gorman, a former Morgan Stanley CEO experienced in CEO succession processes, to its board and the committee tasked with finding Iger's replacement. Reports from advisors and a search firm regarding potential CEO candidates have also been received by the board.