NYC Retirement Systems Back Disney in Activist Investor Proxy Battle so Board Can Focus ‘on a Strategic Transformation’

With less than a week before Walt Disney’s annual shareholders meeting on April 3 will bring the ongoing proxy fight between CEO Bob Iger’s board and activist investors Trian Fund Management and Blackwells Capital to a close, the New York City Retirement Systems are Team Disney, NYC comptroller Brad Lander in a statement Thursday.

“The New York City Retirement Systems intend to vote in favor of the candidates nominated by management,” the statement said, provided to TheWrap. “The company’s shares have performed well.”

“Disney’s management and board are focused on a strategic transformation, and as shareholders we believe that they should be given the time to execute on this,” Lander explained before admonishing Nelson Peltz, who he said has a history of “troubling performance.”

“What remains clear is that boards are most effective when members bring valuable perspectives and relevant experience and are focused on the long-term health of the company,” he said. “Nelson Peltz’s troubling performance on other company boards raise concerns about the value he would bring to the table, and we do not believe this would be beneficial to preserving shareholder value.”

The city’s retirement systems manage more than $250 billion in assets for almost 800,000 current and retired public sector workers in New York. They also own 2.7 million Disney shares valued at $229.2 million, 6.3 million shares valued at $272.7 million in Comcast and approximately 21,000 class A shares and 691,000 class B shares with a combined value of more than $10 million in Paramount.

The battle between Disney CEO Iger and Peltz’s Trian Fund Management will conclude on April 3 when shareholders fill the company’s 12-member board. Disney has touted several improvements and new programs as reasons why investors should reelect the company’s directors. Voting has been ongoing and will finally be shared Wednesday.

In addition to Lander and the NYC Retirement Systems, Disney has received support from former CEO Michael Eisner, proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, Laurene Powell Jobs, activist investor ValueAct Capital, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, former Walt Disney Imagineering president Bob Weis and Walt Disney’s grandchildren.

Meanwhile, Trian has received backing from , former Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, activist investor Ancora Holdings, over a dozen former and current public company directors that have worked with co-founder and Disney board nominee Nelson Peltz and proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services, which played an influential role in Roy E. Disney’s proxy campaign against Eisner that stripped him of his chairman role.

Shareholders of record as of the close of business on Feb. 5 will be entitled to vote at the April 3 meeting. Disney has approximately 1.8 billion outstanding shares, according to its latest proxy filing. Disney shares have climbed 22.5% in the past year, 28.2% year to date and 43% in the past six months.

Lucas Manfredi contributed to this report.

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