Disney (NYSE: DIS) is battling a proxy war with Trian Fund Management’s Nelson Peltz who is seeking a board seat. The company was previously engaging with Peltz for concessions but has now pushed back against the activist investor.
Peltz has been critical of Disney as well as its CEO Bob Iger. Iger took over as the CEO in November only and replaced Bob Chapek. Notably, Iger was DIS CEO until 2020 when he handed over the baton to Chapek.
Peltz has also criticized Iger for his past actions especially the acquisition of the 21st Century Fox Inc. He said that the company “lost its way resulting in a rapid deterioration in its financial performance.” He said that the company has “poor” corporate governance, business strategy, and capital allocation which has led to value destruction for stockholders.
Peltz said that the company’s profitable Parks business was subsidizing the loss-making streaming business, an allegation which is not incorrect.
The Parks segment posted an operating profit of $1.5 billion in the September quarter. However, the DTC (direct-to-consumer) business lost $1.47 billion in the quarter as the streaming business continued to post losses.
Previously, Disney took an amicable approach towards Peltz, and reportedly its chairman Susan Arnold called him to offer the position as a board observer which Peltz declined.
Disney and Peltz Battle a Proxy Fight for Board Seat
Arnold’s tenure would end this year and Disney named Mark Parker, who is currently serving as Nike’s executive chairman as the next chairman. However, the nominations of Parker and other board members need to be approved by stockholders.
While DIS has asked stockholders to vote for its nominees, Peltz has started a proxy war by pushing his candidature for a board seat. After initially trying to cajole Peltz to give up on his assertion, Disney is now pushing back against the activist investor.
In its investor presentation, Disney said “Peltz has no track record in large cap media or tech, no solutions to offer for the evolving media landscape.”
Trian alleged that “There are still several current directors and members of management who oversaw and approved some of Disney’s worst corporate governance and strategic failures.”
Disney has countered the argument and said that DIS stock outperformed Iger’s previous tenure which ended in February 2020.
Iger Has Been Transforming DIS in His Second Stint
Iger has a two-year stint with Disney and has been trying to transform the business. Earlier this month, reversed some of the policies at the company’s theme parks.
Several visitors to Disney’s theme parks had been complaining about the reservation system and long queues for popular attractions at the parks. In probably his most major shakeup, Chapek has changed several of the park policies.
For instance, the company would now not charge for parking for Disney hotel guests. It would also make photo downloads from the rides at Disneyland free, as was the case when Iger was heading the company.
Disney would also significantly increase the availability of its lowest price $104 annual pass.
Another of Chapek’s policies that Iger is dismantling relates to the company’s DTC business. Chapek chased growth at the cost of profitability and losses at the business swelled under his watch.
Analysts Are Bullish on Disney Stock After Iger Took Over
Iger meanwhile wants the company to prioritize profits over growth. At a Town Hall shortly after he took over, Iger said that the company needs to “chase profitability.”
Iger is also looking to change Disney’s organizational structure which became too centralized under Chapek.
In another recent change, he has asked employees to work from the office four days a week. Last year, he had left the work-from-home policy unchanged even as he acknowledged that the in-person model works better for creative business.
Many analysts see Iger’s return as a positive for DIS stock. While the stock rose initially when Iger was appointed the CEO, it tumbled thereafter. Most analysts however see it as a good long-term investment. There is a guide on buying Disney stock.
Disney Would Release Fiscal Q1 2023 Earnings Next Month
Disney would release its quarterly earnings on February 8. It started offering its ad-supported streaming tier in December at $7.99 per month in the US. It simultaneously increased the price of the ad-free tier by $3 to $10.99.
During the earnings, the company would offer more insights into the streaming business. Rival Netflix would release its Q4 2022 earnings tomorrow. Evercore ISI and Bank of America are bullish on Netflix stock and have added it to their top ideas for 2023. There is a guide on how beginners can buy Netflix stock.
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