Walt Disney has hit back at Nelson Peltz as the activist investor crusades for a seat on the company’s board, telling shareholders that he “lacks a basic understanding” of the media industry.
“Nelson Peltz does not understand Disney’s business and lacks the skills and experience to assist the board,” Disney said in a slide presentation to investors on Tuesday, using capital letters to make the point.
Peltz is trying to force his way on to the Disney board after the company declined to nominate him as a director. The battle pits Bob Iger, one of America’s most revered chief executives, against Peltz’s Trian Partners, which has previously taken on conglomerates such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever. Trian owns a $900mn stake in Disney.
The 80-year-old Peltz announced his proxy fight last week. Disney urged shareholders to “differentiate facts from fiction” when it came to his comments and reiterated its view that the billionaire had no expertise in the media sector, citing an interview last week during which CNBC asked the investor: “Why Disney?” and he replied: “Why not?”
The investor has depicted Disney as a company in crisis, criticising its aggressive strategy of mergers and acquisitions and arguing that the sprawling entertainment group’s costs have spiralled.
Disney on Tuesday laid out a defence of Iger and his dealmaking streak, noting that Disney’s market value quintupled during his previous tenure as chief executive, from 2005 to 2020, as he made a string of big acquisitions.
“Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm acquisitions transformed Disney . . . and all were tagged with the ‘Disney overpaid’ narrative, which has proven to be highly inaccurate,” the company said.
Peltz has tried to dispel any suggestions that his experience is limited to consumer goods businesses, citing investments in companies such as Lionsgate and MSG Sports, in which he holds a personal stake.
But Disney painted Peltz as an investor who has little to offer in the way of solutions for what has become a cut-throat business in the streaming age. “If MSG Sports is his training ground, it has not been a good one,” Disney’s presentation stated.
Trian declined to comment.
Peltz does appear to have at least one person inside Disney backing his bid for a board seat: his longtime friend Isaac Perlmutter. The chair of Disney’s Marvel studio advocated for the activist in several meetings with senior Disney executives, the company said.