Activist investor Nelson Peltz seeks seats on Disney board

Nelson Peltz, founder and chief executive officer of Trian Fund Management, during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute Priority Summit in Miami, Florida, US, on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

Marco Bello | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Activist investor Nelson Peltz and his firm are seeking more than two seats on Disney’s board, according to a person familiar with the matter, setting the stage for a proxy fight.

Trian Fund Management, which Peltz co-founded, said Thursday morning that it “intends to take our case for change directly to shareholders.”

The firm said Disney earlier in the day offered to set up a meeting with the entertainment giant’s board, but rejected Trian’s bid to join the board, including the addition of Peltz. It did not note in a statement how many seats it plans to seek.

The news came the morning after Disney added Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman and former Sky TV boss Jeremy Darroch to its board, a move widely seen as a bid to fend off a potential challenge from Peltz. Former Illumina CEO Francis deSouza will not seek reelection on the board.

“While James Gorman and Sir Jeremy Darroch represent an improvement from the status quo, the addition of these directors will not, in our view, restore investor confidence or address the root cause behind the significant value destruction and missteps that this Board has overseen,” Trian said in a statement.

Trian said it owns about $3 billion in Disney stock. The firm has oversight of shares owned by former Disney executive Ike Perlmutter, a critic of Disney chief Bob Iger.

Trian declined to comment beyond its statement. Disney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Disney shares are up about 6% this year, far underperforming the S&P 500. The stock was flat Thursday.

Peltz had earlier pushed for a seat on Disney’s board after Trian took an approximately $800 million stake in Disney. After Iger unveiled a broad restructuring of the company in February, enacting layoffs and cost cuts, Peltz backed off a proxy fight.

But Peltz reignited his push in the lead up to Disney’s quarterly earnings report earlier this month. The activist investor had been waiting to see what happened with the report to decide whether to make a move, CNBC previously reported.

Iger on Tuesday said he was focused on “building again” and intends to focus efforts on theme parks, ESPN’s upcoming streaming service and improving the studio business.

–CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report.

Source: CNBC