Nelson Peltz vs. Disney: Billionaire Activist Investor Seeks Multiple Board Seats as He Launches New Proxy Battle

By Jace Dela Cruz

Dec 01, 2023 01:10 AM EST

Activist investor Nelson Peltz and his firm Trian Fund Management have reportedly launched a proxy fight with Disney as they aim to secure more than two seats on the board.

A source familiar with the matter told CNBC that Trian, co-founded by Peltz, declared its intention on Thursday morning to present its case "for change directly to shareholders."

In response, Disney suggested that the proxy fight might be fueled by a personal vendetta held by one of Peltz's associates, former Marvel executive Ike Perlmutter.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Honors Rupert Murdoch
(Photo : Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 11: Financier Nelson Peltz speaks at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Honors Award to Rupert Murdoch at The Waldorf Astoria on January 11, 2006 in New York City.

Nelson Peltz Seeks for Disney Board Seats

Disney suggested a board meeting to Trian but rejected Trian's proposal for board inclusion, which included Nelson Peltz. CNBC reported that Trian did not specify the number of seats it aims to secure.

Subsequently, Disney bolstered its board by adding Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman and former Sky TV chief Jeremy Darroch, seen as a preemptive move against a potential challenge from Peltz. 

Former Illumina CEO Francis deSouza opted not to lobby for reelection. Trian, however, voiced dissatisfaction with these additions, asserting that while Gorman and Darroch may bring improvement, they fail to address the fundamental issues responsible for significant value destruction under Disney's board oversight.

Trian claims ownership of approximately $3 billion in Disney stock and oversees shares owned by former executive Perlmutter, who was terminated by Disney earlier in the year and has criticized Disney CEO Robert Iger for excessive spending.

According to Reuters, Peltz seeks at least three board seats at Disney as the company is allegedly unsatisfied with Iger's changes. 

READ ALSO: Disney Banks on 100th Anniversary Film 'Wish' to Reclaim the Thanksgiving Box Office

Disney's Counter

Disney countered Trian's move by emphasizing Perlmutter's personal agenda against Iger, stating that he owns 78% of the shares Peltz claims beneficial ownership of. 

Disney highlighted the potential divergence in Perlmutter's agenda compared to other shareholders. Peltz had previously sought a board seat after Trian acquired an approximately $800 million stake in Disney. 

Although he initially backed off from a proxy fight after Iger announced a broad restructuring involving layoffs and cost cuts, Peltz renewed his push ahead of Disney's recent quarterly earnings report.

In response, Iger emphasized his focus on rebuilding efforts, concentrating on theme parks, ESPN's upcoming streaming service, and enhancing the studio business. 

READ MORE: New Disney Movie 'Wish' Fails to Shine at Thanksgiving Box Office

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