After getting fuel from bringing in blockbuster earnings, Disney is now urging shareholders to vote for its official board of directors nominees. In a letter to shareholders Monday from Disney CEO Bob Iger, he said that the foundation has been laid out for success and argued that activist investor Nelson Peltz’s board members don’t meet an adequate level of “talent, skill, perspective and/or expertise.”
“The Disney Board of Directors does not endorse the Trian Group nominees, Nelson Peltz and Jay Rasulo,” the letter stated, “or the Blackwells nominees, Craig Hatkoff, Jessica Schell and Leah Solivan, and believes that they do not possess the appropriate range of talent, skill, perspective and/or expertise to effectively support the Board’s ongoing efforts to drive profitable growth and shareholder value creation in the face of continuing, industry-wide challenges.”
The letter seeks to lay out the company’s public strategy following a successful first quarter. Disney announced a 50% increase in its dividend from January and a $3 billion share repurchase program for this fiscal year.
“Over the course of the last year, your Board and management team have executed an ambitious plan to return The Walt Disney Company to a period of sustained growth and shareholder value creation,” the letter read. “On February 7, 2024, we announced very strong results for the first quarter of FY24 – results that demonstrate we have entered a new era at Disney. Today, the Company is building from a renewed position of strength.”
The letter outlined the areas in which the company’s leaders feel it is “moving in the right direction,” citing developments with ESPN and locking down the full acquisition of Hulu. The company partnered with Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery on a new venture that will launch fall 2024, which will give ESPN customers and sports fans more sports-related content in one place through a new app. It will be bundled with Disney+ and Hulu.
The letter continued, highlighting deals with the video game Fortnite and Taylor Swift: “Your Board and management team remain committed to driving meaningful growth and creating sustainable shareholder value long into the future. Our strategy is working, as evidenced by our strong financial results and a series of exciting announcements reinforcing the Company’s growth trajectory, including new direct-to-consumer plans from ESPN, a transformative collaboration with and investment in Fortnite’s Epic Games and significant upcoming content releases, such as a surprise animated sequel to ‘Moana’ coming to theaters and Taylor Swift’s historic concert film, which will stream exclusively on Disney+.”
The letter concluded, spotlighting the efforts by outside investment groups Trian and Blackwells to “replace” Disney’s picks for the board, telling shareholders that participating in the voting process is critical. The 2024 Annual Meeting of Shareholders is scheduled for April 3.
“Despite these efforts, two activist hedge funds, Trian Fund Management, L.P. and Blackwells Capital, are each seeking to replace members of your Board with their own separate nominees, none of whom your Board believes possess the appropriate range of talent, skill, perspective and/or expertise to effectively support Disney’s building priorities in the face of continuing industry-wide challenges,” the company said, before using both bold and all caps to underline its high-level point and how it wants shareholders to vote. “That is why your vote using the WHITE proxy card FOR the election of ONLY your Board’s 12 nominees at the upcoming Annual Meeting is critically important.”