Amidst governance tensions at The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), activist hedge fund Blackwells Capital has announced plans to nominate three directors to the company’s board. The move stands as a show of support for Bob Iger, who recently returned as CEO in the face of significant losses and underperformance in the company’s movie division. The nomination comes after Trian Fund, a vocal critic of the CEO, sought to secure two board seats, as per reports from Reuters citing sources familiar with the matter.
Support for Iger Amidst Turbulent Times
In an effort to bolster the leadership at Disney, Blackwells Capital has put forward the nominations of Jessica Schell, a former Warner Brothers executive with expertise in content distribution; Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Craig Hatkoff; and Leah Solivan, the founder and former head of TaskRabbit. The nomination is seen as a vote of confidence in Iger during a period of significant corporate unrest.
Preemptive Measures by Blackwells
Blackwells has also proposed a mechanism to allow incumbent board directors who lose their seats to Blackwells nominees to be reinstated through a board expansion. Such measures underscore the keenly contested nature of the upcoming board elections and the overall dynamics of corporate governance at Disney.
Historical Context and Efforts to Stabilize the Company
This development follows Disney’s effort to mend relations with another major investor, ValueAct. Just hours before the announcement of Blackwells’ board nominations, Disney and ValueAct entered into an information-sharing agreement. This move will see ValueAct supporting Disney’s recommended slate of nominees for election to its board of directors at the 2024 annual meeting. The convergence of these activities reflects the intense shareholder activism that has characterized Disney’s recent corporate history.
Challenges and Cost-Cutting
Iger, who has been instrumental in attempting to stabilize Disney amidst challenging times, has been cutting costs aggressively. The company aims to save $7.5 billion as its stock has plummeted by 55% since March 2021, when it reached a record closing price. Such cost-cutting measures underline the formidable challenges facing the company and its commitment to navigate the stormy waters of the entertainment industry.
Disney shares experienced a fractional rise in premarket trading following the announcement of Blackwells’ board nominations. The upcoming months are poised to be critical as the company navigates through the complexities surrounding its governance, leadership, and financial performance.