On Tuesday, Walt Disney Co. (US:DIS) defended its decision to deny Nelson Peltz a board seat, saying the activist investor “lacked the skills and experience” to help the media and entertainment giant. In a letter to shareholders, the house of Mickey Mouse also underlined the company’s successes under Chief Executive Bob Iger, who recently returned from retirement to lead the company for a second time.
Last week Trian and Peltz called for a shake-up of Disney’s Board of Directors, citing “unacceptable” performance and “many challenges” weighing on investor sentiment. Peltz argued that poor corporate governance, strategy, operations, and capital allocation have led to weakened financials and shareholder value, and that his election to the Board of Directors is necessary to restore the company’s “magic” and investor trust.
“Peltz does not understand Disney’s businesses and lacks the skills and experience to assist the board in delivering shareholder value in a rapidly shifting media ecosystem,” Disney said in a statement. The statement also revealed that Peltz had an internal advocate, Marvel Entertainment Chairman Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, who asked that the activist investor be added to Disney’s board on a half-dozen occasions. Perlmutter has been pressing the issue since July 2022, contacting former CEO Bob Chapek, director Safra Catz and other senior executives on behalf of Peltz.
Peltz’s move is seen as a serious challenge to Iger and pits one of the most popular executives in Hollywood against the activist investor known for his work at consumer firms. Last week, Peltz told CNBC that Disney should buy the remaining stake in Hulu it does not own or exit the streaming business. Disney agreed to acquire Comcast Corp’s one-third interest in the Hulu streaming service as soon as January 2024.
Disney also needs to boost capital expenditure at its parks business, where it probably raised ticket prices “too hard,” Peltz said. In its statement on Tuesday, Disney said it was already working to improve profitability at the Disney+ streaming business that Iger helped launch in 2019 and was rolling out broader cost-cutting measures.
Disney also defended its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business, which added valuable film properties like “Avatar” and the long-running animated series “The Simpsons,” a popular show that bolstered the 2019 launch of Disney+. It also brought a deep bench of experienced executives to Disney, including its general entertainment content chairman, Dana Walden.
Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, which owns a 0.5% stake, or roughly $900 million, in Disney, declined to comment. Unless Peltz settles with Disney, investors will vote this year on whether he should sit on the company’s board.
Nelson Peltz is a longtime shareholder activist whose efforts recently focused on pushing companies to take a more responsible approach to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. He’s advocated for companies to reduce their carbon footprint, increase diversity, and align corporate culture with stakeholders’ interests. His efforts have led to the adoption of sustainability targets, the introduction of new policies, and the appointment of more diverse executives.
This article originally appeared on Fintel
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