Disney CEO Bob Iger Prevails: Shareholders Overwhelmingly Elect Director Nominees, Thwarting Nelson Peltz's Board Takeover Bid

By John Lopez

Apr 03, 2024 03:46 PM EDT

Walt Disney Co. and CEO Bob Iger emerged victorious. Shareholders overwhelmingly elected all of Disney's director nominees, defeating activist investor Nelson Peltz's bid for board seats. 

The results were announced at Disney's annual shareholder meeting, indicating a resounding rejection of Peltz's campaign to reshape the board.

Pelts, Trian Partners Disney Board Fight

Through his hedge fund Trian Partners, Peltz launched a proxy fight earlier this year, aiming to oust Disney board members Maria Elena Lagomasino and Michael Froman. 

Peltz sought to replace them with himself and former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo. However, shareholders rallied behind Disney's nominees, with Iger securing an impressive 94% of the vote for his board seat.

Hollywood Reporter tells us that the battle was not without tension, as Peltz's campaign intensified with accusations of Disney's underperformance and calls for strategic changes, including "right-sizing" the company's film and TV businesses and achieving streaming margins comparable to Netflix. 

In his 130-page whitepaper, Peltz also questioned Disney's content choices and expressed reservations about diverse casts in Marvel productions.

Disney Prevails Over Trian

Despite Disney's recent stock price surge of nearly 50% since October, Peltz remained critical of the board's leadership, highlighting the need for improved focus, alignment, and accountability. However, with shareholders firmly backing Disney's direction, Peltz's efforts fell short.

The proxy fight garnered significant attention within the entertainment industry, with both sides securing notable backers. Disney received public statements of support from influential figures like George Lucas and Michael Eisner, as well as the families of Walt and Roy Disney.

Fans are reflected in Disney+ logo during the Walt Disney D23 Expo in Anaheim, California on September 9, 2022. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP)
(Photo : Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

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Meanwhile, Trian secured recommendations from advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services and California's pension administrator CalPERS. However, despite this support, Peltz's bid for board seats was unsuccessful.

In the aftermath of the proxy battle, Disney reaffirmed its commitment to its strategic priorities, focusing on growth, shareholder value creation, and consumer creative excellence. With the distraction of the proxy process now behind them, Disney is poised to continue its ambitious initiatives, including investments in companies like Epic Games and the launch of an ESPN streaming service in 2025.

Bob Iger thanked shareholders for their trust and confidence in Disney's board and management. "Now that this distracting proxy contest is behind us, we're eager to focus 100% of our attention on our most important priorities: growth and value creation for our shareholders and creative excellence for our consumers," Iger said in a statement.

While disappointed with the outcome of the proxy contest, Trian acknowledged the dialogue with Disney stakeholders and the impact of their engagement on the company's direction.

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