Corporate Clash: Disney at Loggerheads with Activist Investors

By: Alex Freidmen

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The latest tremors in the typically placid world of Disney shook the entertainment universe last week when activist fund Blackwells Capital unveiled a preliminary proxy statement for three board nominees at Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS).

Blackwells, which has held Disney stock since 2018, is proposing Jessica Schell, Craig Hatkoff, and Leah Soliva as directors, setting the stage for a potential showdown at the upcoming annual meeting.

The announcement comes on the heels of an earlier move by billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz, who officially initiated a proxy fight with Disney, putting forth Peltz and former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo as nominees.

“The Disney Board should promptly meet with the Blackwells nominees in order to promote the free-flowing exchange of ideas that comes with constructive collaboration,” said Jason Aintabi, Chief Investment Officer of Blackwells, signaling a desire for a more open, transparent discourse.

Disney, in response, nominated 12 directors for election at the upcoming annual meeting, declining to endorse the nominations of either Peltz and Rasulo put forth by Trian Fund Management or the nominations of Blackwells Capital.

Complicating the fray further, a separate activist investor, Ancora, has publicly advocated for Disney to add Peltz to its board, adding another layer of complexity to the already tense standoff.

In November, Disney appointed former Morgan Stanley Chief Executive James Gorman to its board of directors, but with the recent proxy engagements, the board’s composition remains a simmering bone of contention.

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