Disney Shareholders Opt to Stay Course w/ Iger, Despite Anti-Woke Boycotts

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(Headline USADisney shareholders have rallied behind longtime CEO Robert Iger, voting Wednesday to rebuff billionaire investor Nelson Peltz and his ally, former Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo, who had sought seats on the company’s board.

Despite facing boycotts and other negative publicity surrounding its political agenda, the the woke company had recommended a slate of directors that did not include Peltz or Rasulo.

Peltz—who turned his grandfather’s New York produce truck into an estimated $1.7 billion personal net worth and an $8.5 billion portfolio via his Trian Fund Management—was a prominent supporter of former Republican President George W. Bush.

The dissident shareholders had said in a preliminary proxy filing that they wanted to complete a “successful CEO transition” at Disney and align management pay with performance.

They declared a victory of sorts following the vote, noting that since Peltz’s company, Trian Partners, started pushing Disney in late 2023, the entertainment giant has engaged in a flurry of activity, adding new directors and announcing new operating initiatives and capital improvement plans for its theme parks.

“Over the last six months, Disney’s stock is up approximately 50% and is the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s best performer year-to-date,” Trian said in a statement. Shares in Walt Disney Co., which is based in Burbank, California, closed Wednesday down 3.1%.

The group previously said it wanted to see Disney achieve “Netflix-like” financial performance, specifically citing a 2027 target for Disney to raise a profit margin measure called EBITDA—earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization—to levels of 15% to 20%.

But Disney is already operating at that level. In the quarter that ended in December 2023, Disney’s EBITDA margin was 18%, according to data compiled by CapitalIQ.

For the previous fiscal year that ended in September, Disney’s EBITDA margin was 16.5%, according to the same data.

Disney announced in November 2022 that Iger would come back to the company as its CEO to replace his hand-picked successor, Bob Chapek, whose two-year tenure had been marked by clashes, missteps and weakening financial performance.

Iger was Disney’s public face for 15 years as chief executive before handing the job off to Chapek in 2020, a stretch in which Iger compiled a string of victories lauded in the entertainment industry and by Disney fans. But his second run at the job has not won him similar accolades.

During Wednesday’s annual shareholder meeting, at least one conservative-leaning corporate watchdog group, the National Legal and Policy Center, held Iger to account for Disney’s ongoing promotion of the LGBT agenda—specifically its preferential treatment to transgender employees while ignoring the equivalent needs of detransitioners.

“Disney has become the Ursula that is stealing the voices of thousands of little Ariel’s across the world, by telling us we can be something that we can never become,” detrans activist Chloe Cole told Iger and other shareholders on the call.

“The lawsuits are coming, sir,” she continued. “It’s only a matter of time before current or past employees, whose bodies and lives have been irreversibly harmed, will show up at your door looking for justice and restitution.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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