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Disney CEO emerges victorious in board battle with hedge fund

Nelson Peltz had challenged the current CEO and his hand-picked board of directors for control.

Nelson Peltz had challenged the current CEO and his hand-picked board of directors for control.

A smart phone showing Disney's general entertainment streaming service Hulu. (Stock image via Unsplash)
(Stock image via Unsplash)

The Walt Disney Company and its chief executive successfully averted a shake-up on Wednesday after a challenge brought by Nelson Peltz’s hedge fund failed to secure enough shareholder votes.

Peltz, a major Disney investor, sought to install himself as a board director after affirming his position that the family-oriented company needed a fresh voices and perspectives from its senior leaders.

Preliminary results of the shareholder vote showed Iger and the current board secured enough support “by a substantial margin,” according to a statement from the company on Wednesday. All but one director currently on Disney’s board were appointed by Iger following his unexpected return to the company nearly two years ago.

“With the distracting proxy contest now behind us, we’re eager to focus 100 percent of our attention on our most important priorities: Growth and value creation for our shareholders and creative excellence for our consumers,” Iger said in a statement late Wednesday evening.

Iger affirmed the company has “turned a corner” amid pressure from investors to capitalize on its investments in linear and streaming entertainment content, including a years-long build up of cornerstone streamer Disney Plus and general entertainment service Hulu.

In a competing statement offered Wednesday evening, Peltz’s hedge fund, Trian Partners, credited itself with turning the ship around at Disney through its fight with Iger and the board of directors.

“We are proud of the impact we have had in refocusing this company on value creation and good governance,” the statement said.

Citing unnamed sources, the Wall Street Journal said Iger secured 94 percent of shareholder votes on Wednesday, while board director Maria Elena Lagomasino — whose seat was directly challenged by Peltz — had 63 percent of shareholder votes in her favor.

Retail investors were critical to the process, with 75 percent of those investors casting votes in affirmation of keeping Iger and the current board in place, the Journal said.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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