Bob Iger Says He Prevented Marvel Chair Isaac Perlmutter From Firing Kevin Feige In 2015

Disney CEO Bob Iger on Thursday called Marvel chairman Isaac Perlmutter’s backing of activist investor Nelson Peltz “a curious dynamic.”

Peltz, of Trian Group, this morning abandoned his battle with Disney that featured a push for a seat on the board. He said a wide-ranging corporate restructuring announced Wednesday spoke to many of his concerns about the company’s management and strategy. Peltz’s campaign didn’t go public until mid-last year, but it started back in 2022 under former CEO Bob Chapek and with Perlmutter’s support, Disney has said.

In an SEC filing in January as part of its proxy fight with Peltz, Disney lists meetings and calls starting in the summer of 2022 involving Peltz and Chapek, CFO Christine McCarthy, directors Amy Chang and Safra Catz, General Counsel Horatio Gutierrez, as well as Iger. A number of them were initiated by Perlmutter, who supported Peltz and lobbied Disney execs and board members on his behalf.

“Peltz, or Isaac Perlmutter (an employee and shareholder of Disney who currently serves as chairman of Marvel Entertainment) on Peltz’ behalf, asked for a Board seat or suggested he should be added to the Board no less than 20 times since July 2022,” Disney said in the filing.

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In an interview with CNBC, Iger indicated that Perlmutter wasn’t happy at losing oversight of Marvel’s movie-making operations.

“Our filings indicate that both Ike and Nelson were working together to try to encourage the board or convince the board to put Nelson on the board,” Iger said. “They have a relationship that dates back quite some time. We bought Marvel in 2009. I promised Ike the job that he would continue to run Marvel after that. Not forever, necessarily. But after that. And in 2015 he was intent on firing Kevin Feige who was running Marvel’s studio, the movie-making [operation] at the time, and I thought that was a mistake and stepped in to prevent that from happening. I think Kevin is an incredibly, incredibly talented executive that you know, the Marvel track record speaks for itself. And so I moved the movie-making operation of Marvel out from under Ike into the movie studio under Alan Horn” (with Feige reporting directly to Horn, who retired from the company in 2021).

Asked by host David Faber if that created ill will, Iger said, “You’d have to ask Ike about that. But let’s put it this way. He was not happy about it. And I think that unhappiness exists today. And you know, what the link is between that and Nelson, his relationship. I think that’s something that you can speculate about. I won’t.”