Disney Turns Down Nelson Peltz’s Request for Board Seats, Both Release Statements

Shannen Ace

The Walt Disney Company building with Seven Dwarfs columns

Disney Turns Down Nelson Peltz’s Request for Board Seats, Both Release Statements

This morning, we reported that Nelson Peltz and Trian Fund Management were pushing for two seats on The Walt Disney Company Board of Directors. Trian later released a statement (via Business Wire) stating they spoke with Disney CEO Bob Iger and that Disney offered to meet with Trian but said they were turning down their request for board seats, including a seat for Nelson Peltz. Disney released a statement in response. Read both below.

Nelson Peltz
Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Statement from Trian Fund Management

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.”

The Walt Disney Company logo with Mickey Mouse

Statement from The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) issued the following statement today in response to the statement released by Nelson Peltz, founding partner of Trian, relating to Disney and its Board of Directors:

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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