Disney grandchildren back CEO Iger and board, slam activist investors

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 7:40 PM

(Reuters) – The grandchildren of Roy and Walt Disney, founders of Walt Disney Co, have backed CEO Bob Iger and the board, while opposing activist investors encircling the company.

The four grandchildren of Roy Disney – Roy P. Disney, Susan Disney Lord, Abigail E. Disney and Tim Disney – in an open letter to Disney shareholders expressed concerns about the threat posed by “self-anointed” activist investors, calling them “wolves in sheep’s clothing” waiting to tear the company apart.

The letter comes in the middle of Disney’s ongoing proxy war with billionaire Nelson Peltz, who has pushed the entertainment and media giant to cut costs, create Netflix-like profit for its streaming business and clean up its succession planning.

In January, Peltz’s Trian Fund Management had urged Disney shareholders to replace directors Michael Froman and Maria Elena Lagomasino with Peltz and former Disney chief financial officer Jay Rasulo. Trian also criticized Disney’s investment plans earlier this month, calling it a “spaghetti against the wall plan”.

In return, Disney published a point-by-point refutation of claims made by Peltz.

The grandchildren also said in the undated letter it is important that the strategies implemented by Iger and his team have are not disrupted by those “motivated by nothing more than their own self-interest.”

In a separate open letter, the four grandchildren of Walt Disney – Walter Elias Disney Miller, Tamara Diane Miller, Jennifer Miller-Goff and Joanna Sharon Miller – said they support Iger and the company’s board, and oppose the nominations put forth by Peltz.

“Bob Iger has grown this company in a modern world, and he continues to maintain a balance of creativity and profit,” they said, adding that the current management has adjusted and grown through many challenging times.

“We love Disney and recognize building on its rich history of delighting loyal fans is essential to its future success. Trian invests in great companies like Disney and helps them grow and thrive for the long term – and we have the track record to prove it at companies like P&G, Heinz and Mondelez,” a Trian Fund Management spokesperson told Reuters in a statement.

Meanwhile, reacting to the letters, Iger said he approaches Disney with a “deep sense of respect for everything Walt and Roy created, and it is incredibly meaningful to have the support of their families.”

(Reporting by Juby Babu in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Devika Nair; Editing by Rashmi Aich)