Activist investor Nelson Peltz said Thursday morning that he’s ending his proxy fight against Disney after CEO Bob Iger announced sweeping restructuring and cost-cutting plans yesterday alongside the company’s latest quarterly earnings.
Peltz had amassed a stake of about $1 billion worth of stock and was seeking a seat on Disney’s board at the annual meeting in early April, lobbying heavily in recent weeks to get shareholders’ vote in opposition to the company, which was already running a full slate of directors. He set up a dedicate website, Restore the Magic, that detailed what he saw as the company’s failings. But a string of announcements from Iger yesterday, from slashing billions of dollars in costs to restoring the dividend and creating a new corporate structure all boosted Disney stock and neutralized Peltz, addressing many of his concerns.
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He acknowleged that today in an interview on CNBC.
“My dad once told me that you can only win once,” Peltz told Jim Cramer. “This was a great win for all the shareholders. Management at Disney now plans to do everything that we wanted them to do. We wish the very best to Bob, his management team, the board. We will be watching, we will be rooting, and the proxy fight is over.”
Cramer then shouted “Yes.” “Thank you for declaring victory in a gracious way,” he told Peltz.
This removes a major irritant for Iger, who returned as CEO in November after former chief Bob Chapek was dismissed.
Asked how much money he made with the rise in Disney’s stock price, Peltz said, “Who’s counting? Everybody made money.”
Peltz said he’s open to becoming friends again with Iger. “I agree, I’ll pick up lunch or breakfast again next time. I promise.” And he might even do more. “I didn’t realize this until I watched just now that it’s his birthday. I might even send him a gift,” Peltz said.
Iger, in a separate interview with the network this morning, defended the diverse experience and business background of Disney’s directors, in particular Michael Forman, the former U.S. Trade Representative who Peltz called inexperienced and aimed to replace.
Iger said “there is not a need” for a new board member and Peltz had “not articulated either a vision or even ideas that are of particular value to us.” He has some, “but we were already working on those.”
“So where is the need.? … Just from a shareholder perspective where is the need?”
“Disruption from a force like that is not something that would be helpful to the shareholders of the company.”
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