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Disney Wins Board Fight With Activist Shareholder Nelson Peltz

Entertainment giant Walt Disney Co. (DIS) looks poised to claim victory in a long running proxy fight with activist shareholder Nelson Peltz.

Peltz had waged a long campaign to secure seats on Disney’s board of directors, claiming that the company behind popular film franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel had lost its way and needed a shake-up.

The battle over whether to give Peltz multiple seats on Disney’s board ended with a proxy vote among the company’s stockholders. And the vote looks to be going against Peltz.

Preliminary vote counts indicate that Disney shareholders rejected Peltz bid for board seats and have sided with the company’s current management team led by chief executive officer (CEO) Bob Iger.

The result is widely viewed as a victory for Iger as he steers Disney through a difficult transition coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, and as streaming comes to dominate the entertainment industry.

According to multiple media reports, Disney’s largest shareholder, the institutional Vanguard Group, and other major investors have voted in support of Iger and the current board.

Official results from the proxy vote will be disclosed at Disney's annual shareholder meeting, which is scheduled to take place later today (April 3).

Peltz, the CEO of hedge fund Trian Fund Management, had argued that Disney mismanaged its CEO succession plan, lost its creative spark, and failed to embrace new technologies.

Disney has struggled in recent years to reinvigorate its film franchises, make its streaming business profitable, and grow sports network ESPN.

The proxy fight between Disney and Peltz was acrimonious, with both sides spending millions of dollars on campaigns trying to persuade shareholders to vote in their favour.

Disney dismissed Peltz’s efforts to secure board seats at the company, saying the activist shareholder offered “nothing new” in the way of improvement.

Through his hedge fund, Peltz is Disney's fifth-biggest shareholder with a 1.76% stake in the Mouse House worth about $3 billion U.S. currently.

Disney's stock peaked in March 2021 at $201.91 U.S. per share before falling below $90 U.S. a share in 2023.

However, the company’s stock has rebounded and risen 35% so far in 2024 to currently trade at $122.82 U.S. per share.