Disney Shareholders Reject Billionaire Activist Takeover, Report

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Nelson Peltz in front of a Disney castle

Credit: Inside the Magic

Shareholders in the Walt Disney Company are reportedly prepared to reject the billionaire activist attempting to seize control over the board of directors, with experts asserting that he has no experience with a corporation like the Mouse House.

Nelson Peltz and Bob Iger over the Walt Disney Studios castle logo
Credit: Inside the Magic

Nelson Peltz, billionaire activist investor and Taylor Swift superfan, is currently campaigning to join the Disney board of directors, along with former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo, via a proxy war. Basically, he is trying to ask other shareholders to vote him and Rasulo onto the board so he can force the company in the direction he feels it should be taking.

While most board votes are fairly dry, uncontested affairs, the battle for the future of the Walt Disney Company has been a remarkably angry and vocal one. In addition to Nelson Peltz and his company, Trian Partners, who are backed by former Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, Blackwells Capital investment firm is looking to seize seats on the board, while Disney itself is pleading with shareholders to stay the course and not vote anyone new in. Peltz has launched an extensive campaign called Restore the Magic to try to get shareholders to see things his way, while Blackwells is acting as something of a potential vote-splitter between him and Bob Iger.

CEO Bob Iger in front of Disney HQ
Credit: Disney

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Despite Nelson Peltz’s reputation as a remarkably ruthless corporate investor, a new report from the L.A. Times suggests that very few people at Disney think that he has the know-how and an actual plan to help the company if he is successful in ousting CEO Bob Iger.

Shareholder rights activist Nell Minow thinks there is an essential flaw to Nelson Peltz’s plan, saying, “I see no indication of widespread shareholder support for what he’s doing…The first thing you have to do is you’ve got to find a target that everybody’s mad at, and you just don’t have enough people that are mad at Disney.”

The report notes that while Nelson Peltz has a long history in investing, he has virtually no experience dealing with a major media company like Disney. Minow continued, “I don’t think that anything in his track record indicates that he can come up with a good strategy for this particular company… He’s an expert in balance sheets, but I don’t know that in a company like Disney, that’s what you need.”

Nelson Peltz with Minnie Mouse inside of Walt Disney World.
Credit: Inside The Magic

Similarly,  Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute founder Jeffrey Sonnenfeld says that Nelson Peltz basically doesn’t like Bob Iger’s leadership, he has no actual plan of his own. Sonnenfeld said, “He’s offered no ideas for the Disney strategic situation because he has no ideas and he has no background in media…He’s an industrial consumer-goods guy with no media, technology, or media marketing background.”

Related: Disney Sends ‘Power Move’ Message to Billionaire Investor

An anonymous source close to Trian Partners suggested that Jay Rasulo is nominated along with Nelson Peltz essentially to compensate for the latter’s lack of experience, saying, “Nelson knows brands, and Disney is ultimately a company of brands… And Jay [Rasulo] spent three decades there in a variety of roles. He was CFO during a time when stock price increased by more than 250%, and the company paid more than $8 billion in dividends.”

We will have to wait until April 3, when Disney shareholders vote for their new board of directors, to see whether Nelson Peltz is successful in getting his way, but things aren’t seeming hopeful for him.

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