Disney War Brewing: Ike Perlmutter vs Bob Iger

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Disney War Brewing: Ike Perlmutter vs Bob Iger

A war at Disney has been brewing for some time as Ike Perlmutter is firing shots at CEO Bob Iger in a bid to take over the company.

Ike Perlmutter is the former head of Marvel who Iger “laid off” back in March of 2023. Perlmutter also happens to be Disney’s largest stockholder and one of the top contributors to the Donald Trump campaign. The eccentric billionaire is also known to have butted heads with the head of Marvel, Kevin Feige, who went above Perlmutter to get him removed from Marvel.

Perlmutter has teamed with Nelson Peltz and Peltz’s Trian Partners multi-billion dollar asset management firm to take over the company and unsuccessfully attempted to gain a seat on the board last February. Disney again declined board representation for Peltz just recently.

Trian Partners released a press release offering they are now going to take their fight to the Disney shareholders. The statement blames Bob Iger for shareholders losing $70 billion of value:

Trian Fund Management, L.P. (together with its affiliates, “Trian” or “we”) beneficially owns approximately $3 billion of stock in The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) (“Disney” or the “Company”). This morning, following conversations with Disney’s CEO, Disney extended an offer to Trian to meet with the Board but informed Trian that the Board is turning down Trian’s recent request for Board representation, including Nelson Peltz. Trian said the following regarding the discussions:

“Since we gave Disney the opportunity to prove it could ‘right the ship’ last February, up to our re-engagement weeks ago, shareholders lost ~$70 billion of value. Disney’s share price has underperformed proxy peers and the broader market over every relevant period during the last decade and over the tenure of each incumbent director. Investor confidence is low, key strategic questions loom, and even Disney’s CEO is acknowledging that the Company’s challenges are greater than previously believed. While James Gorman and Sir Jeremy Darroch represent an improvement from the status quo, the addition of these directors will not, in our view, restore investor confidence or address the root cause behind the significant value destruction and missteps that this Board has overseen. Trian intends to take our case for change directly to shareholders.”

Disney issued the following statement in response:

The Walt Disney Company has a proven track record of delivering long-term value to our shareholders and is in the midst of a significant transformation to reinforce our position as the world’s preeminent entertainment company. Over the past twelve months, we restructured the company to restore creativity to the center of all our businesses as we significantly reduce costs and drive efficiencies, and we are on track to achieve about $7.5 billion in cost savings – $2 billion more than our original target.

Disney is moving from a period of fixing to a new era of building, as the entire media sector navigates the crosscurrents of the competitive landscape for streaming. We are executing on four key building opportunities that will be central to our success: achieving significant and sustained profitability in our streaming business; building ESPN into the preeminent digital sports platform; improving the output and economics of our film studios; and turbocharging growth in our Experiences business. Our extraordinary portfolio of businesses, brands and assets—and the key synergies between them—are the foundation to developing the popular franchises that will continue to drive our strategic success. With one of the strongest balance sheets in the media sector, Disney expects free cash flow to approach pre-COVID levels in fiscal 2024, and the Board and management are steadfast in our commitment to ensuring The Walt Disney Company’s long-term success for the benefit of all our shareholders.

Disney also continues to refresh its Board of Directors, including the appointments of James P. Gorman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Morgan Stanley, and Sir Jeremy Darroch, a veteran media executive and former Group Chief Executive of Sky, as new directors, as the result of a lengthy and comprehensive search that began in April of this year.  Their appointments reflect Disney’s commitment to a strong board focused on the long-term performance of the company, strategic growth initiatives, the succession planning process, and increasing shareholder value. As also announced yesterday, Disney board member Francis A. deSouza has decided not to stand for reelection at the annual meeting.

Mr. Peltz, in partnership with Isaac Perlmutter, a former Disney executive, intends to take its case to shareholders. Mr. Perlmutter owns 78% of the shares that Mr. Peltz claims beneficial ownership of, or more than 25 million of the 33 million shares. This dynamic is relevant to assessing Mr. Peltz and any other nominees he may put forth as directors, as Mr. Perlmutter was terminated from his employment by Disney earlier this year and has voiced his longstanding personal agenda against Disney’s CEO, Robert A. Iger, which may be different than that of all other shareholders.

The Disney Board will recommend to shareholders its slate of director nominees in the company’s proxy statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and distributed to all shareholders eligible to vote at the annual meeting.

Disney shareholders are not required to take any action at this time.

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