Disney girds to fight activist investor Peltz over board seat


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Walt Disney Co on Wednesday snubbed a bid from activist investor Nelson Peltz seeking a board seat, months after a top-level shakeup at the entertainment giant brought back old boss Bob Iger as chief executive.

Disney also named independent director and Nike Inc Executive Chairman Mark Parker as its next chairman, replacing Susan Arnold, who will not stand for re-election.

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Disney shares rose 1.4% in extended trading.

Peltz’s interest is the second time in six months that an activist shareholder has mounted pressure on Disney. Last year, billionaire Daniel Loeb pushed for changes.

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Peltz’s Trian Fund Management LP, which owns a less than 5% stake in Disney, believes Iger should not be back in control of the company and pushed for operational changes and cost cuts, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters in November.

The fund bought $800 million worth of Disney shares that month after the company posted disappointing earnings, according to a media report. Peltz had signaled interest in a board seat.

Peltz, who often presents himself as a partner with constructive advice for companies, fought a bitter proxy fight with Procter & Gamble Co a few years ago and won a board seat.

Trian did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

“For shareholders, regardless of whether or not Peltz wins his battle, his move seems to have made Disney’s management more aggressive in implementing improvements and fine tuning their strategy,” said Michael Ashley Schulman, chief investment officer at Running Point Capital Advisors.

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“I’m grabbing a box of popcorn to watch this show!” Schulman said.

Disney said Trian had nominated Peltz for a board seat in opposition to the company’s nominees.

Disney said that while its senior leadership and board “have engaged with Mr. Peltz numerous times over the last few months, the board does not endorse the Trian Group nominee.”

Iger, who came back from retirement in November, announced plans to restructure the Disney Media and Entertainment Division on the first day on the job. He has said making the streaming business profitable is a top priority.

Third Point’s Loeb had pushed Disney to spin off the ESPN sports television network and accelerate the planned takeover of Hulu from minority-owner Comcast Corp.

Loeb later tweeted that he better understood ESPN’s value to Disney. Third Point also pushed Disney to refresh its board and reached a settlement with the company in September that handed a seat to former Meta executive Carolyn Everson. (Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Devika Syamnath and David Gregorio)



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