Disney Wins Proxy Battle and Other Shareholder Meeting Takeaways

Disney Wins Proxy Battle and Other Shareholder Meeting Takeaways

Disney has won the proxy battle against Trian Fund Management and Blackwells Capital. The two groups had been campaigning for seats on Disney’s board. Disney said the company’s nominees were elected by a “substantial margin.”

Trian’s Nelson Peltz, who lost his bid for a seat, spoke at the meeting: “All we want is for Disney to get back to making great content and delighting consumers and for Disney to create sustainable long-term value for shareholders.”

Peltz had aligned himself with Ike Perlmutter, the former Marvel Entertainment chairman. Perlmutter and Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, had a very public battle over the studio’s direction. Specifically, Perlmutter wasn’t interested in making Black Panther or Captain Marvel. Disney CEO Bob Iger sided with Feige and ultimately fired Perlmutter in 2023. Black Panther grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide. Captain Marvel earned over $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office.

Peltz, who has never worked in the entertainment industry, offered his opinions on The Marvels and Black Panther:

“Why do I have to have a Marvel [movie] that’s all women? Not that I have anything against women, but why do I have to do that? Why can’t I have Marvels that are both? Why do I need an all-Black cast?”

Nelson Peltz

Well, enough of that. Disney won the proxy battle. And once the vote was announced, Iger thanked shareholders:

“I just want to take a moment to thank our shareholders for your trust and confidence in the Disney Board and management and the ambitious strategy we are implementing across our businesses to build for the future. Now that this distracting proxy contest is behind us, we’re eager to focus 100% of our attention on our most important priorities: growth and value creation for our shareholders and creative excellence for our consumers.”

Disney’s future priorities

Iger laid out the company’s goals for the upcoming year:

  • Reinvigorating creativity at Disney’s film studios
  • Achieving sustained profitability in streaming
  • Positioning ESPN for the future and turning it into the preeminent digital sports platform
  • Turbocharging growth in the company’s Experiences business, including domestic and international Parks and the Disney Cruise Line

I’m down with all of that. Unfortunately, we didn’t get many concrete details on the fourth bullet. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Disney’s studios

Iger highlighted the movies coming to theaters this year, including Inside Out 2, Kingdom of the Planet of the ApesDeadpool & WolverineAlien: Romulus, and Mufasa: The Lion King. Viewers were treated to sneak peeks of Inside Out 2 and the third season of The Bear. I tuned out for both. I’m a spoiler-free guy. He also shared artwork and details about Moana 2, opening this November.

Moana 2 artwork. Copyright Disney.
Copyright Disney

“Three years since her first voyage, Moana is heading out on an epic journey to find and reconnect the people of the ocean. We can’t wait to take audiences on another amazing journey with Moana and Maui, and we are excited to confirm that both Auli‘i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson are back reprising their roles.”

Bob Iger

Streaming and ESPN

I’m combining Disney’s next two priorities since ESPN is set to become a much bigger player in the streaming world. Disney is partnering with Fox Sports and Warner Brothers Discovery to create a streaming service that combines the companies’ sports offerings. Furthermore, Iger announced that ESPN is coming to Disney+: “We will make the full suite of ESPN’s channels available as a stand-alone and highly interactive digital destination.”

Iger also talked about Moana’s staying power (it was streamed for billions of minutes last year) and Hulu’s integration into the Disney+ app. No new programs were discussed.

Disney Experiences

Concept art for Disney Fortnite game. Copyright Disney.
Copyright Disney

Iger began his Experiences discussion by spotlighting Disney’s partnership with Epic Games. “Younger audiences in particular are huge consumers of video games, and this new universe will give players the opportunity to forge even greater connections with Disney,” he said.

Iger then talked about the parks. He highlighted the success of World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland and announced that a Frozen-themed land is coming to Disneyland Paris. He also touted Shanghai Disney’s Zootopia and Tokyo DisneySea’s upcoming Fantasy Springs.

Concept art for an Avatar land in Disneyland. Copyright Disney.
Concept art for an Avatar land in Disneyland. Copyright Disney.

We have Avatar concept art! Iger confused us all a little more by calling Disneyland’s Avatar project a “possible new destination” before sharing artwork of the land. I’ve stopped trying to figure out this new land/experience. I hope we get clarity at the D23 Fan Event later this summer.

Update: Josh D’Amaro provided a little more clarity about Disneyland’s Avatar on the Disney Parks Blog:

“We were thrilled to unveil a piece of inspirational artwork developed for a potential new Avatar experience at the Disneyland Resort. We are excited about the stories our guests could experience at Walt’s original theme park destination after approval of DisneylandForward – including the chance to experience all-new Avatar adventures with a visit to Pandora.”

Josh D’Amaro, Chairman, Disney Experiences

So it is an “experience.” And it’s currently blue-sky and not a confirmed attraction.

Finally, Iger discussed Disney’s recent settlement with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, saying that it was a “win-win” for both sides. He said the settlement will allow Disney to move forward with future development and create new jobs and economic opportunities.

Q&A session

The meeting ended with a Q&A session where he was asked this question:

“Why hasn’t Disney prepared anything or placed more than just a handful of attractions in the pipeline to be ready for this in 2025 at Walt Disney World?”

Disney shareholder

Iger pounced, saying that Disney has been aware of Universal’s new park for “more than a decade.” He then listed the attractions that have opened in Walt Disney World in recent years. The list is impressive but does lack the instant impact of a new gate.

  • Pandora
  • Toy Story Land
  • Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge
  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  • Moana’s Journey of Water
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind
  • TRON Lightcycle / Run

Other questions delved into politics, which Iger sidestepped. Instead, he focused on Disney’s positive role in the world.

“I’ve often said that one of the greatest attributes of Disney is the mere fact that people expect so much from us. ‘What will they think of next,’ you might hear someone say, or ‘Only Disney can do that.’”