Disney Grandchildren Praise Bob Iger for Being ‘Faithful’ to Brand’s Magic, Reject Nelson Peltz Board Noms

 “These hedge-fund-backed opportunists … have little to no knowledge of what Disney truly means,” a joint letter to shareholders reads

Disney CEO Bob Iger and activist investor Nelson Peltz (Credit: TheWrap/Chris Smith/Getty Images)

Walt Disney’s grandchildren endorsed CEO Bob Iger in a letter to shareholders on Thursday, praising him and his management for being “faithful” to the brand’s “magic.”

“They understand that the longevity of The Walt Disney Company isn’t only the result of smart business decisions; it is rooted in the strong emotional connection Disney continues to forge with generations of people from around the globe,” the letter, signed jointly by Roy P. Disney, Susan Disney Lord, Abigail E. Disney and Tim Disney.

In that same letter, the grandchildren denounced Trian Fund Management’s Nelson Peltz and his board nominations in their ongoing proxy battle with the corporation, writing, “These hedge-fund-backed opportunists … have little to no knowledge of what Disney truly means.”

In a second joint letter to shareholders also shared Thursday, the children of Walt Disney’s eldest daughter Diane Disney Miller — Walter Elias Disney Miller, Tamara Diane Miller, Jennifer Miller-Goff and Joanna Sharon Miller — also put their support behind Iger.

“As the family of Walt Disney, we support The Walt Disney Company management and its Board of Directors, and oppose the nominations put forth by Nelson Peltz,” they wrote.

“Bob Iger has grown this company in a modern world, and he continues to maintain a balance of creativity and profit. It is still a company based on the desire to entertain and explore,” the letter continued. “There have been challenging times, but this current management has adjusted and grown through those challenges.”

The former shareholder letter also nodded to “challenging times,” but indicated worse would come if Peltz and activist investor Blackwells Capital had their way on the board.

“We may not agree about everything, but we know that our grandfather would be especially proud of what Disney means to the world today,” the grandchildren wrote. “We also know that, like us, he would be very concerned by the threat posed by self-anointed ‘activist investors’ who are really wolves in sheep’s clothing, just waiting to tear Disney apart if they can trick shareholders into opening the door for them.”

In a statement provided to TheWrap, a spokesperson for Trian shrugged off the Disney grandchildren’s concerns and maintained their track record of helping companies “grow and thrive for the long term.”

“We love Disney and recognize building on its rich history of delighting loyal fans is essential to its future success,” the spokesperson said. “Trian invests in great companies like Disney and helps them grow and thrive for the long term – and we have the track record to prove it at companies like P&G, Heinz and Mondelez.”

The pair of Thursday’s shareholder letters from the Disney grandchildren marked just the latest effort to sway favor in Iger’s direction. Earlier this week, Disney swiped at dissident shareholder Peltz in a sharply worded letter to its stock owners. Posted late Monday, the letter slammed Peltz’s sale of a portion of Trian’s shares of the company last year, which caused his clients “to miss out on the recent appreciation of Disney’s stock price,” and questioned the qualifications of former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo, who Trian is backing for a board seat.

In addition to the personal jabs over Trian’s nominees, Monday’s letter also offered a point-by-point challenge to various claims from Peltz, noting that it restored investors’ dividends as of January, targets $3 billion in stock buybacks this year and is on track to meet or exceed $7.5 billion in cost cutting by the end of its fiscal year – $2 billion more than initially targeted.

Trian owns roughly 1.8% of Disney — a $3 billion stake — and has backed Peltz and former CFO of Disney Jay Rasulo for their board nominations in hopes of replacing Disney directors Michael Froman Maria Elena Lagomasino.

Disney shareholders have been targeted for the past few months with various appeals for their votes from the company, Trian and Blackwells. Proxy cards for all three slates of directors used for voting at the virtual annual meeting have been sent out, and the appeals are becoming more urgent as the meeting, and the final count, approaches.

Eileen AJ Connelly contributed to this story.


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