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Ex-Marvel chair backs Nelson Peltz's push for Disney board seats

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Oct 30, 2023

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Former Marvel chairman Isaac Perlmutter has given Trian Partners full voting power over his outsized Disney shares as the latter's co-founder Nelson Peltz pushes for board seats, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: Trian now has four times the number of shares to vote compared to its most recent Disney proxy battle.

Details: Perlmutter, who was laid off earlier this year amid Disney cost-cutting, told the Wall Street Journal last night that he had entrusted his stake to Trian.

  • With Perlmutter's shares, Trian increased its stake in Disney to 33 million shares, worth roughly $2.5 billion. Most of that stake is Perlmutter's shares.
  • Perlmutter, who sold Marvel to Disney in 2009 for $4 billion, is one of Disney's largest independent shareholders.
  • Perlmutter helped Trian's previous proxy campaign by calling directors and helping to set up meetings between Peltz and former Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

The big picture: Trian's forthcoming proxy battle — the nominating window for directors opens in December — will have more teeth this time around.

  • The firm will seek board seats for Peltz and at least one more representative, sources familiar with the plan say.

Context: The last time it engaged in a proxy battle, Trian said Disney's streaming strategy lacked cost discipline, and it criticized the firm for over-relying on profits from its parks division to subsidize its streaming costs.

  • It also blamed Disney's board and leadership for consistently failing on succession planning.
  • Since then, Disney CEO Bob Iger's contract was renewed through 2026 with no successor identified.
  • At the same time, Disney is trying to find a strategic partner for ESPN while considering selling some of its assets, including broadcast network ABC.

Catch up quick: There is no love lost between Perlmutter and Iger. When Perlmutter was let go in March, he claimed he was fired.

  • "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 WSJ then.
  • Disney said the move was because Perlmutter's department, in which he ran Marvel's publishing and licensing businesses, had become redundant.
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