Earlier this year, billionaire Nelson Peltz — an activist investor at Disney — attempted to snag a seat on Disney’s Board of Directors. Had Peltz been successful, it would have directly threatened Disney CEO Bob Iger, whom Peltz is not a big fan of. Iger was able to stave off Peltz’s advances when he announced that he would be cutting $5.5 billion from Disney’s budget.
Despite the cuts, 2023 has not been very friendly to Disney, or to Bob Iger. Disney has been struggling at the box office and is still losing tens of millions of dollars on Disney+. That is why, in early October, Peltz announced that he was once again going to launch a proxy fight for a place at Disney’s table. However, this time, Peltz isn’t just looking for one seat on Disney’s Board of Directors — he’s looking for several.
One of the biggest issues Disney has with Peltz is that he’s working very closely with Ike Perlmutter. Perlmutter is a former Marvel Studios executive who was fired when Bob Iger began budget cuts and company layoffs. Perlmutter owns more than 3/4 of the shares that Mr. Peltz has invested in Disney, which means that if Peltz is on the Disney board, Perlmutter will have a huge voice.
The Downfall of Disney’s Progressive Movement
While it may not seem like a huge deal to have Perlmutter back in the Disney circle, his opinions could have a MAJOR impact on the content that Disney creates and the way it treats its cast members.
Back in April, Business Insider columnist Beth Kowitt noted how staunchly conservative Perlmutter is.
Iger embraces the Hollywood limelight, is a staunch Democrat who talked of running for president and has vocally supported left-leaning causes. Perlmutter is an ultra-conservative recluse with a membership to Mar-a-Lago, a big financial backer of Donald Trump’s campaigns and an unofficial adviser during his presidency. He has also supported Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and likely bristled as he watched DeSantis and others in his circle cast Disney as a “woke” company.
Those opinions are in direct opposition to the direction that Disney has been going in the past few years. Disney movies and television shows have been focused on creating new and diverse characters that more accurately represent the world as it is today. In addition to that, Disney has added an “inclusion” key to its standard practices — meaning cast members have been able to more freely express themselves.
With such conservative voices trying to gain seats on the Board of Directors, all of that movement could be put on pause.
Disney and DeSantis
As Kowitt stated, when Disney was deep into its fight with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Perlmutter was team DeSantis, reportedly telling DeSantis that he was right and Disney was wrong. DeSantis has repeatedly called Disney “woke” and said that he will be fighting to prevent Disney from enacting more “woke” policies.
If Peltz gets his way and Perlmutter has an indirect say, there could be a big change in the way Disney interacts with the governor. Disney is currently suing Governor DeSantis, but what would happen if Disney’s board was suddenly more conservative? The impact could be felt not only by the company and its cast members, but also by Disney park guests and even residents of the state of Florida.
Disney’s Not Backing Down
Mr. Peltz has said that he intends to take his proxy fight to his fellow Disney shareholders. He wants to convince shareholders to vote not only him, but also a couple of his allies, onto the board. He has said that Iger and his decisions have cost shareholders billions of dollars. Peltz thinks that the only way to make Disney better for shareholders (not guests or cast members) is to have him and his people make the decisions.
But Disney is not backing down. The day that Perlmutter relaunched his proxy fight, Disney announced that it was reinstating shareholder dividends, which had not been seen for several years.
Disney also said that Peltz did not want to become a board member because of a noble cause. They said that Peltz wanted a seat on the board because of his relationship with Ike Perlmutter. Disney said that shareholders should not be caught in the crossfire because of a fired executive who has a “vendetta” against the company.
Disney also stated that Peltz’s fight was “ego-driven” and that the billionaire could end up costing shareholders tens of millions of dollars. They also noted that the last time Peltz had its people on a board of directors, they ended up hurting the company — which was Wendy’s.
Board seat nominations began on December 5 and will run through January 4, 2024.
Do you think Disney should be worried about Nelson Peltz? Let us know in the comments.