Make that three angry billionaires coming for Disney CEO Bob Iger.
On Thursday, activist investment firm Trian Partners—helmed by billionaire Nelson Peltz—announced that it was launching a new proxy war against the entertainment behemoth. Peltz is collaborating with fellow tycoon Ike Perlmutter, who was ousted as chairman of Disney subsidiary Marvel Entertainment in the spring.
The news comes less than a day after Elon Musk personally called out Iger at the New York Times Dealbook summit over Disney’s decision to pause spending on X. “Hey Bob,” Musk said, after declaring that any advertiser who had pulled back could “go fuck yourself.”
Peltz and Pelrlmutter’s antagonism poses a far more serious threat. Trian has a history of roiling companies it believes are underperforming, including Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and DuPont—causing major pain for the executives it disfavors.
Trian explained its thinking in a statement on Thursday: “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. 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.”
The statement added that the appointment of Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman and former Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch to the board “represent an improvement from the status quo” but were not sufficient to address Trian’s concerns. On Thursday, Disney again rejected Peltz’s attempt to get board representation for himself or his associates. He will now try to get Disney’s shareholders to take his side.
Disney released a competing statement on Thursday morning, which argued that it has spent the last year restructuring its business to “significantly reduce costs and drive efficiencies, and [is] on track to achieve about $7.5 billion in cost savings – $2 billion more than our original target.”
The company cast Perlmutter, who has given Peltz voting power of his shares, as a disgruntled ex-employee.
“Mr. Perlmutter was terminated from his employment by Disney earlier this year and has voiced his longstanding personal agenda against Disney’s CEO, Robert A. Iger, which may be different than that of all other shareholders,” the statement said.
Peltz—whose daughter, Nikola, is married to David and Victoria Beckham’s son Brooklyn—had launched a proxy war against Disney earlier this year. The parties reached a truce following the corporate restructuring and cost savings measures—but evidently Iger couldn’t keep Peltz at bay for good.