As activist investor Nelson Peltz pushes the Walt Disney Company for multiple board seats, former Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter has granted Trian Fund Management sole voting power over his shares in the entertainment giant, a person familiar with the matter told TheWrap.
Peltz’s investment firm has amassed an estimated $2.5 billion stake in the company, which contains shares from both Trian’s funds and outside investors, with Perlmutter’s shares representing the majority under the investment firm’s control.
The support from Perlmutter gives Peltz nearly four times as many shares to vote than he and the investment firm had during its last push for a board seat. Peltz and Trian are not asking Disney to give Perlmutter a seat on the board nor rehire him, the individual said.
Perlmutter, who has has long butted heads with Disney CEO Bob Iger, previously aided Peltz in his last proxy fight, which was called off in February after Disney announced $5.5 billion in cost cuts.
“While I was a Disney employee, I was not comfortable publicly stating my views on the company and its performance,” Perlmutter said in a statement shared with TheWrap. “As someone with a large economic interest in Disney’s success, I can no longer watch the business underachieve its great potential. I urge Disney’s board to immediately welcome one or more Trian board candidates, including Trian’s CEO and Founding Partner, Nelson Peltz, into the boardroom.”
Perlmutter has entrusted his stake to Peltz and Trian because he believes the firm is a “constructive voice for Disney’s shareholders” can help leadership “better navigate the company’s challenges and opportunities,” citing their “strong operating and strategic capabilities.” He acquired Disney stock in 2009 following the Marvel acquisition.
“I have not sold any of the Disney stock I received and, in fact, have added to my holdings over the years,” he added. “Increasing the value of my Disney holdings will also result in increasing the amount that my wife and I will be able to provide to the leading hospitals, medical research institutions and other charities to which we plan to leave the vast majority of our wealth.” (The pair have been active donors to New York University’s Langone Medical Center, according to the Journal.)
Representatives for Trian declined to comment, while Disney did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment. The news of Perlmutter’s involvement was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Perlmutter joined Marvel Comics’ board of directors in 1993 and by 1997, established control of the Marvel Group with Avi Arad after it faced bankruptcy. In 2001, Perlmutter became vice chairman of Marvel and became CEO of Marvel Comics in 2005.
After Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009, Perlmutter remained CEO but his frequent penny-pinching and refusal to greenlight female-led or POC-led films like “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” put him in frequent conflict with Marvel Studios president and creative architect Kevin Feige.
In September 2015, Feige successfully moved Marvel Studios — the unit responsible for the wildly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and shows — out from under Perlmutter’s purview, with Feige reporting directly to then-Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. Perlmutter’s kingdom dwindled, especially as Marvel Television, which was also later moved under Feige’s control at Marvel Studios.
Perlmutter was laid off from Disney in March as the company laid off 7,000 employees, though he said the move was a “convenient excuse” to get rid of him.
“I have no doubt that my termination was based on fundamental differences in business between my thinking and Disney leadership, because I care about return on investment,” he told the Journal at the time. “[The layoffs were] merely a convenient excuse to get rid of a longtime executive who dared to challenge the company’s way of doing business.”
The nomination window for new board members opens on Dec. 5 and runs until Jan. 4, according to Disney’s latest proxy statement. Disney, which is set to report its quarterly earnings on Nov. 8 after the bell, has seen its stock fall 10% year to date and 24.9% in the past year.