Looks like Disney investors don’t want to rock the boat at a time when the stock is at a record high — although a high percentage are concerned about the company’s compensation policies. A preliminary tally of the voting results at the annual meeting shows that owners of 57.6% of the shares supported the company in the federally mandated say-on-pay advisory vote, a slight increase from last year when 56.9% sided with management. (At most companies these resolutions pass with 90%+ support.) In addition, a shareholder proposal to give long term owners the opportunity to nominate directors failed with 39.8% supporting it. Another proposal, to keep the CEO and chairman positions separate except under unusual circumstances, was supported by 35.3%. All 10 members of the board were re-elected with overwhelming support. Several major shareholders and proxy advisory firms urged investors to vote “no” on the say-on-pay resolution, and endorse governance reforms. Critics say that the board gave Bob Iger too much power, making him chairman as well as CEO, and didn’t adequately tie his compensation — $40M last year — to performance. The company said that changes would complicate a system that’s working well, pointing to the stock price.
In a general question session, one shareholder complained about the decision to offer Starbucks coffee at the theme parks noting that Disney’s lead director Orin Smith is a retired CEO of Starbucks. Iger responded that there was no conflict of interests: “Over the years one of the biggest criticisms we had at our parks was that our coffee wasn’t good enough” and with Starbucks seen as an improvement “we plan to add more.” Asked about Disney’s plans for Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, Iger says he’s “not aware” of any plans to revive the character in film or TV. An 8-year old from Phoenix, where the meeting was held, asked whether Disney cares more about critics or kids when it produces its animated films. “Absolutely kids,” the CEO said. “Do not let anyone say otherwise.”
Iger spent the first 40 minutes of the meeting talking up the company. He spoke optimistically about the wide range of Disney initiatives including the theme parks’ upgrade of California Adventure and construction of Shanghai Disney; the studio’s plans for movies including Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, Pixar’s Monsters University, and Saving Mr. Banks (where Tom Hanks will play Walt Disney); and the success of ESPN and ABC shows such as Good Morning America.