Disney appoints Mark Parker chairman, opposes pressure from Nelson Peltz to join board

Mark Parker

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Walt Disney Company Wednesday named Mark Parker, the executive chairman of Nikehis next chairman of the board, while announcing that he opposes activist investor Nelson Peltz’s bid to join the board.

Disney’s announcements signal a potentially big and messy fight. Nearly two months ago, Peltz’s Trian Fund Management took a roughly $800 million stake in the company and began seeking a seat on the board. Trian would like to make operational improvements and reduce costs, and he has expressed his opposition to reappointing Bob Iger as Disney CEO.

“While senior management of The Walt Disney Company and its Board of Directors have spoken with Mr. Peltz on several occasions over the past few months, the Board does not endorse the Trian Group nominee and recommends that shareholders not not support its nominee and instead vote for all of the company’s nominees,” Disney said in its statement Wednesday.

Peltz is expected to respond with a filing later Wednesday, CNBC’s David Faber reported.

The new drama from Disney comes after a tough year for the entertainment giant’s shares as soaring streaming costs and a thin slate of theatrical releases ate away at profits. Shares of the company closed Wednesday at $96.33. A year ago, Disney was trading at around $160 per share.

Parker will succeed Susan Arnold, whose 15-year term will end after the company’s next annual meeting of shareholders. The date of the meeting has not yet been announced. Disney’s board of directors will be reduced to 11 members after Arnold’s departure.

“During his four decades at Nike, Mark has led one of the world’s most recognized consumer brands through various market evolutions and a successful CEO transition, and he is uniquely positioned to chair the Board of Nike. administration of Disney during this time of transformation,” Arnold said in a statement Wednesday. Parker has been a Disney board member for seven years. Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iger’s stunning return in November came with the promise of a two-year stint that would spark renewed growth. The CEO also plans to help find his next successor, after his former handpicked replacement Bob Chapek’s tenure crumbled.

Disney previously announced company-wide cost-cutting measures in November, including a ban on all but essential business travel and a freeze on new hires for all but a few critical positions. Iger confirmed that hiring freeze when he returned to lead the company later that month.

“Mr. Iger’s mandate is to use his two-year tenure and extensive industry experience to adapt the business model to the changing media landscape, rebalancing investments with revenue opportunities while putting the emphasis on creative flair that has made The Walt Disney Company the envy of the industry,” the company said.

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