Nelson Peltz nominates himself, ex-CFO to Disney board


Activist investor Nelson Peltz is seeking two board seats at Disney, his fund said Thursday, less than a year after abandoning an earlier bid as the media conglomerate outlined plans that addressed his criticism.

While Peltz is one of the candidates nominated, former Chief Financial Officer of Disney James “Jay” Rasulo is the other nominee, Trian Fund Management said.

Rasulo is a veteran theme park executive who was moved to the role of chief financial officer in 2010, swapping roles with then-CFO Tom Staggs, as both executives vied for the No. 2 job at Disney.

Rasulo left the company in 2015, after being passed over for chief operating officer.

“Disney is one of the most iconic companies in the world, with unrivaled scale, unparalleled customer loyalty, irreplaceable intellectual property, and enviable commercial flywheel,” Trian said in a statement issued Thursday. “However, Disney has woefully underperformed its peers and its potential.”

Trian criticized Disney’s financial performance, noting its per-share earnings in the most recent fiscal year are lower than a decade ago. Margins on the company’s streaming business and its media operations lag peers, Trian argues.

Nelson Peltz reignited his proxy fight against Disney. AP
CEO Bob Iger and James Rasulo in 2005. Gene Duncan, photographer

“For shareholders, this subpar performance has destroyed value,” Trian wrote.

Trian owns roughly $3 billion worth of Disney stock and ranks among the industry’s oldest and most respected corporate agitators.

Disney could not be immediately reached for comment. Disney shares rose 1%.

The fund had said last month that during a conversation with CEO Bob Iger, Disney extended an offer for Trian to meet with the company’s board but rejected the request for seats on a board that will soon have 12 members.

Disney’s board previously rejected Trian’s request for seats. Getty Images for The New York Times

Peltz had launched a battle for a board seat at Disney in January to rescue the entertainment giant from what he called a “crisis” of overspending on the streaming business, a little after Iger returned from retirement to become the CEO in a surprise comeback.

The activist investor ended his quest about a month later after Iger laid out plans to restructure and cut costs.

Over the past 12 months, Disney has restructured the company and significantly reduced costs. It told investors last month it is on track to achieve about $7.5 billion in cost savings – $2 billion more than its original target.

Over the past 12 months, Disney has restructured the company and significantly reduced costs. AP

Disney has also said it would work to make its streaming business profitable, build ESPN into the “pre-eminent” digital sports brand, improve the performance of its film studios, and “turbocharge” growth at its theme parks, through $60 billion in investment over the next decade.

Trian said that since it gave Disney the time “to prove it could right the ship” in February, up to its re-engagement weeks ago, shareholders lost about $70 billion of value.

Disney had announced the appointment of James Gorman, chair and chief executive of Morgan Stanley, and Jeremy Darroch, a veteran media executive and former group chief executive of Sky, as new directors last month.

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