Trian blames 'poor oversight' for Disney's problems in its push for board seats


By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

March 4 (Reuters) - Billionaire U.S. investor Nelson Peltz on Monday said media and entertainment company Walt Disney DIS.N had gambled away a "winning hand" and blamed "poor oversight" from its board, which he wants to be elected to next month.

In a 133-page-long presentation, the founder of Trian Fund Management argued that Disney was slow to adapt to industry changes including streaming, made errors in its acquisition strategy and bungled succession planning, leaving a "leadership void."

Trian is pushing for two seats on Disney's board and said Peltz and former Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo are the right candidates to bring fresh blood to the boardroom.

The fight for the seats is one of the most closely watched corporate battles this year with Trian, a prominent activist investor, facing off against one of the most iconic U.S. companies, valued at $205 billion.

Peltz and Rasulo have promised to fix the process of finding a successor to Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, who was recruited out of retirement in 2022 to replace his fired predecessor. The pair have also vowed to evaluate Disney's organizational structure to improve accountability and efficiency and plan to address costs, especially at Disney's legacy media business.

At the same time a smaller activist, Blackwells Capital, is also in the race for seats, asking investors to elect three nominees to help supervise and guide Iger better. Disney investors can vote up until the company's annual meeting on April 3.

The fight is shaping up as one of the most costly in corporate history. Disney estimated it will have to spend $40 million to fend off the two activist rivals.

Large paychecks have been a Disney hallmark for years, Trian said, writing that executives received $1 billion over the last decade despite poor performance.

Over the past decade, Disney's shares have gained about 60%, while the S&P 500 .SPX has nearly tripled, according to LSEG.

Disney has previously said Trian has offered no new ideas and that its candidates do not have necessary media experience.

A Disney representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Editing by Nia Williams)

((svea.herbst@thomsonreuters.com; +617 233 2138; Reuters Messaging: svea.herbst.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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