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Disney earnings under pressure amid Trian proxy battle

Photo illustration of Nelson Peltz and Bob Iger and abstract shapes.

Nelson Peltz (left) and Bob Iger. Photo illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios. Photos: Marco Bello/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

All eyes will be on Disney this week as the Mouse House reports its quarterly earnings after the bell Wednesday.

Why it matters: The earnings report is the last public disclosure of the company's performance before shareholders vote on the future of Disney's board and its direction.

State of play: Battle lines are drawn between Disney and activist hedge fund Trian Partners ahead of the April 3 annual shareholder meeting.

  • Trian wants co-founder Nelson Peltz and former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo to replace Disney directors Michael Froman and Maria Elena Lagomasino.
  • "Mr. Peltz brings no media experience and has presented no strategic ideas for Disney, while Mr. Rasulo's perspective is stale given he left Disney in 2015 and has not held any executive positions in the industry since," Disney said in its proxy.

Meanwhile, Trian points to one major metric justifying a board shakeup: Disney's steep drop in share price since CEO Bob Iger took the reins again in November 2022.

  • "Despite Disney's enviable and unique position in media and entertainment, its stock price is half what it was less than three years ago and Disney shareholders — like you and us — have collectively lost nearly $200 billion of our investment in that time," Trian says in its proxy.

The big picture: Disney faces an uncertain fate amid the media sector's messy transition to streaming. The activist pressure ratchets up the temperature on Iger to address a number of issues.

  • ESPN's foray into betting has gotten off to a strong start, but the network still has yet to find a strategic partner — despite talking to multiple suitors. ESPN still has yet to lay out a firm timeline for ESPN's forthcoming streaming transition, with Iger promising a launch no later than 2025.
  • This will be the second quarter that Disney will break out ESPN's financials separately.
  • Disney+ faces a fast-approaching deadline to become profitable, and the company still does not know much extra it will have to pay Comcast to buy out Hulu.
  • Disney has not identified any potential successors to take over for Iger when he steps down in 2026.

What we're watching: Trian is expected to publish a white paper on its plan to fix Disney.

  • Expect Disney's earnings release and conference call to do everything it can to get ahead of Trian's expected criticisms.
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