Disney CEO Bob Iger faces a fresh challenge from activist investor Nelson Peltz

  • Nelson Peltz is launching a second proxy battle at Disney, ramping up the pressure on CEO Bob Iger.

  • The activist investor's fund, Trian Partners, said it would take its "case directly to shareholders."

  • The statement comes after Disney rejected Peltz's request for seats on the board.

Nelson Peltz signaled he would launch a new proxy challenge against the Walt Disney Company, in a statement that ramped up the pressure on CEO Bob Iger.

Peltz's Trian Partners fund, which holds a $3 billion stake in the entertainment giant, said it would take its "case directly to shareholders" after Iger turned down the activist investor's request for board representation.

"Since we gave Disney the opportunity to prove it could 'right the ship' last February, up to our re-engagement weeks ago, shareholders lost $70 billion of value," Trian said. "Disney's share price has underperformed proxy peers and the broader market over every relevant period during the last decade and over the tenure of each incumbent director."

Disney's stock price is up about 3.5% in 2023, meaning it's lagging the benchmark S&P 500 index, which has climbed 19% year-to-date. It's valued at just under $170 billion, some $40 billion less than Netflix.

Disney's move Wednesday to nominate Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman and former Sky chief Jeremy Darroch to its board is "an improvement from the status quo," but won't "address the root cause behind the significant value destruction and missteps that this board has overseen," Trian added.

Peltz has been loading up on Disney shares since February, when he called time on a first proxy battle against the House of Mouse after it agreed to cut costs by laying off about 7,000 employees.

Trian had been seeking at least three seats on the Burbank, CA-based entertainment powerhouse's board, according to a Reuters report citing unnamed sources.

Disney has also faced questions from shareholders about who'll succeed Iger as CEO when his contract ends in 2026. The former weatherman made a dramatic return to the company last year after Bob Chapek's dismissal.

Blackwells Capital, another Disney shareholder, stood by Iger and praised the nominations of Gorman and Darroch. Its CEO Jason Aintabi slammed Peltz's proxy battle.

"Mr Peltz and Trian need to withdraw this costly and disruptive effort to displace experienced voices in the boardroom and substitute them with Mr. Peltz and his nominees," he said in a statement.

"Mindless, drum-beating activism is not the right strategy for shareholders. Disney's board is acting in the best interests of all shareholders and should be allowed the time to focus on driving value at one of America's most iconic companies without this fatuous sideshow," he added.

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