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Two Hedge Funds Come to Disney CEO Bob Iger’s Rescue in Battle Royal With Billionaire Nelson Peltz


Two activist hedge funds are circling their wagons around Walt Disney Co. and CEO Bob Iger in a proxy battle royal over control of the Magic Kingdom.

One called on Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management on Wednesday to end its “backward-looking, adventitious campaign” against Iger while another said it would back the company’s board nominees.

Blackwells Capital said it will support Iger in his efforts to turn around the company, which is recovering from a $1.5 billion quarterly loss it posted in November 2022 among other struggles. The hedge fund, which owns just $5 million in Disney stock, is nominating three directors to the board it said have ample experience in entertainment, real estate and venture capital. The development was first reported by Reuters.

Trian, which owns about $3 billion in Disney shares, is putting up its own CEO Peltz along with former Disney Chief Financial Officer James Rasulo. Trian also has an endorsement from activist hedge fund Ancora Holdings.

Trian didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Trian withdrew his original “unnecessary” proxy fight ten months ago and is now pushing for a board seat for its CEO and a “disgruntled former Disney employee,” Blackwells said in a statement.

Josh D’Amaro, chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products (center front right) and Jeff Vahle, president, Walt Disney World Resort (center front left), pose with Disney cast members for a photo in front of Cinderella Castle, July 11, 2020, prior to the phased reopening of Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Activist shareholders are vying for seats on the board at Walt Disney Co.David Roark/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images

“Neither candidate has the skillsets Trian claims the board lacks,” Blackwells said. “Rather, we believe Mr. Peltz’s latest effort is driven by animus against Mr. Iger, and an ego-driven urge to claim credit for a transformation already underway.”

Blackwells nominated Jessica Schell, a former Warner Brothers executive with expertise in content distribution; Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Craig Hatkoff; and TaskRabbit founder Leah Solivan, as board members, Reuter’s sources.

Meanwhile, activist investor ValueAct Capital Management also said Wednesday it will support Disney’s nominees for the board of directors.

Blackwells called Trian’s efforts “a contrived campaign that is disconnected from the needs of Disney stakeholders.”

“We call on Mr. Peltz to end his peacocking so that Disney can focus on its bright future, and not be dragged backward in time,” Blackwells Chief Investment Officer Jason Aintabi said in the press release.

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