Disney CEO Bob Iger is set to address the entertainment giant’s staff in a company-wide town hall on Nov. 28.
Iger will participate in a moderated conversation with ABC News anchor David Muir to discuss the company’s “many recent achievements and future building opportunities,” according to an internal memo to staff. Other senior executives set to participate include Disney Entertainment co-chairs Alan Bergman and Dana Walden, parks chief Josh D’Amaro and ESPN’s Jimmy Pitaro.
“As I reflect on the immense progress we’ve made this year and look ahead to the many opportunities before us, I’m grateful to all of you – the people of this great company – for the tremendous work you do each and every day to ensure we continue delivering incredible entertainment for our audiences, guests, and fans all over the world,” Iger added.
At a town hall last year following Iger’s return to the company, he told staff that Disney’s main focus would be creativity and making its streaming business profitable rather than just adding subscribers. Since then, the House of Mouse has embarked on a plan to cut $5.5 billion in costs, including 7,000 layoffs, removing select streaming content and producing a lower volume of content.
Iger also said in an interview with CNBC in July that Disney’s linear networks “may not be core” to the company, suggesting that he would be willing to potentially offload them to the right buyer. The company has also been evaluating strategic options for its Star India business, including a possible sale or joint venture, and is on the hunt for strategic partners who can help turn ESPN into a fully direct-to-consumer offering, which is targeting a launch in 2025.
Disney is also slated to buy Comcast’s minority stake in Hulu for at least $8.61 billion. The company will complete an appraisal process in 2024 to determine the asset’s full value and plans to launch a beta version of a combined Disney+ and Hulu app offering in December, before an official rollout in early spring 2024.
On Nov. 8, Disney beat Wall Street expectations for its fourth quarter of 2023 and announced an additional $2 billion in planned cost cuts. It also narrowed losses in its direct to consumer division by 70% year over year to $420 million. As of the end of the fourth quarter, Disney+ reported a total of 150.2 million subscribers, while Hulu and ESPN reported 48.5 million and 26 million subscribers, respectively.
Though Disney stock hit a 52-week low of $78.73 earlier this year, shares have since rebounded to around $94 per share.
Activist investor and Trian Fund Management founder Nelson Peltz, who called off a proxy fight in February, has launched a renewed push for a board seat at the House of Mouse, in which he’s expected to ask for multiple board seats to increase accountability, an individual familiar with the matter told TheWrap. The effort is backed by former Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, who was let go from Disney during its layoffs and has granted Trian sole voting power over his shares in the entertainment giant.
According to a 13D filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, Trian has upped its Disney stake to 7.3 million shares during the third quarter of 2023, compared to 6.42 million shares during the second quarter. The filing also discloses another 25.57 million Disney shares listed as an “other investment discretion.”
“I don’t have specifics about what Nelson is really after or what he will ask for,” Iger told CNBC in an interview following the release of its fourth quarter earnings. “I will say that as is the case has been the case in the past, the management and the board is always willing to listen to what shareholders have to say. You know, we’re in lockstep with the board in terms of our opportunities and our challenges and our strategic direction. We all feel very optimistic about the future of the company.”
If Peltz doesn’t get what he wants, he can nominate directors to be put up for a shareholder vote at Disney’s next annual meeting. The nomination window for new board members opens on Dec. 5 and runs until Jan. 4, according to Disney’s latest proxy statement. Peltz and Trian are not asking Disney to give Perlmutter a seat on the board nor to rehire him, the individual familiar told TheWrap.
In addition to Trian, activist investor ValueAct Capital is reportedly building a “significant stake” in Disney.
CNBC’s Activist Spotlight reported that the San Francisco-based firm began buying Disney stock during the Writers’ Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes and that the company is one of its largest positions. It values Disney’s theme parks and consumer products division alone in the low 80s per share. The report adds that ValueAct has been in a dialogue with Disney’s management and is still growing its position.
Representatives for ValueAct and Disney did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment.
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