The Walt Disney Co. has come out in defense of its “highly qualified board and clear strategy” for growth and share price gains as activist investment firm Trian Capital issued its latest attacks on the company.
The company also disclosed the date of its annual shareholder meeting, which could see bigger sparks fly over the media giant’s direction in two decades. The gathering will be held April 3 and will be virtual, a change from the in-person meetings convened by Disney in a rotating series of cities around the U.S. in a longstanding tradition.
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Trian, co-founded by Nelson Peltz, has aligned with former Marvel boss Ike Perlmutter in an attack on Disney’s stagnating stock price. Peltz has criticized Disney management, including CEO Bob Iger, and Trian has recommended shareholders withhold support of two of Disney’s board nominees and instead put Peltz and ex-Disney CFO Jay Rasulo on the 12-member board.
In its latest letter to shareholders today, Trian reiterated its complaints of the past several weeks, saying streaming flagship Disney+ has been “mismanaged,” ESPN lacks Direction and the movie studio’s creative engine has “stalled.”
Blackwells, another investment firm with its own slate of board nominees, Craig Hatkoff, Jessica Schell and Leah Solivan. In its own proxy statement Thursday, Blackwells reiterated its support of Disney’s management team, a key difference between it and Trian. Peltz and Perlmutter have decried Iger’s performance and said he and others should go. Blackwells, meanwhile, said its board members should be given an opportunity to “contribute to the company’s continued growth and transformation efforts under existing leadership.”
Disney responded with a statement maintaining it “has the right strategy to drive profitable growth and value creation for shareholders and has made substantial progress against our objectives to make our business more efficient and effective, including a sharpened focus on our greatest brand and franchise assets, a continued commitment to cutting costs and a reinstatement of the dividend.
The company, its management and the board “remain focused on this building plan,” the statement continued, “which will position our streaming businesses for sustained growth and profitability, reinvigorate the company’s film studios, fortify ESPN for the future and turbocharge growth in Disney’s Experiences business.
Disney, which has rebuffed multiple efforts from investors to put forward their own board candidates, reiterated its view that all 12 of its own nominees “are best qualified to create sustainable shareholder value.”
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