Do It Right: Disney Has Instruction Cartoon for Shareholders Too Moronic to Know What's Good for Them

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

So, there I was early this morning, finishing up the post on EW, Lizzo, and I thought of that great Prince 1999 video. Not that Dems deserve anything that snappy, but the sentiments suited my purposes, so I cued it up and VURT DA FURK?!

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I could not save it to save my life, but the YouTube ad that preceded seeing Prince?

It was the most obnoxious, flagrantly insulting Disney cartoon video - and this is where my jaw hit the floor -  instructing Disney shareholders to vote for the entire Disney-approved slate in the board election on April 3. Little red check, check, checkmarks in the boxes under "Company Nominees: Recommended by Your Board."

Wow. Talk about aggressive. And juvenile.

Since I couldn't clip the ad itself or grab a screenshot, I bit and clicked through to the site. It's VoteDisney.com and schlick as schnoodles.

The first thing that happened was a pop-up with the same ballot and language, but the rabbit from Alice urging "Hurry, hurry, hurry," time's a' wastin'.  No matter how I tried, I couldn't save a screencap, so I got a picture of it with my phone.

More than one way to skin a Cheshire cat.



If you squint a little closer at the ballot, you'll see the other nominee names are under corporate labels and have the notation beneath: 

Opposed by the company


Not very friendly, eh?

Trian Fund Management is led by Mr. Nelson Peltz, one of Disney's major investors. I wrote about his tangles with Disney in October of last year. Mr. Peltz had been very unhappy with the company's direction and had let returning savant and CEO Bob Iger know that his patience was wearing thin. 

Disney stock has lost over half of its value since 2021.

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Iger assured Peltz things would be turning around, so the investment firm backed off. Disney continued on their merry woke way...and continued tanking. 

To Iger's horrified shock, Peltz jumped back into a nasty proxy board fight like a supposedly deceased maniac killer at a summer camp comes through a plate glass window at the end of the slasher flick.

Blackwells Capital, another investment firm unhappy with Iger's stewardship and overall direction of the House of Mouse, also jumped into the fray to put allies on Disney's corporate board.

Iger wasn't sitting still for that.

Estimates are now that upwards of $70M - that's million with an "M" - is going to be blown on this fight by the end of voting 3 April. It's all public perception, because no one can outright control shares of Disney - there are too many shares in too many hands. It will be who gets their hands on enough seats to throw a tourniquet on and stop the bleeding. Or at least the self-mutilation causing the bleeding.

Iger's idea of waging war includes utilizing all those things Disney is so famous for, like animation, lingering fondness for what Disney once was, and story telling.

They gathered their ardent supporters for cameos on the welcome page of VoteDisney with a backdrop of all the offerings currently streaming on their various channels.

"Oooh, look!" it seems to say. "So fresh! Don't mess with this!"

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They also put together what I'm sure they saw as a cutesy answer to Petlz's campaign for seats.

Have one of Disney's beloved cartoon characters instruct shareholders how to vote for the Disney-approved board members.

See all the happy Magic Kingdom clones dutifully tapping away their proxy votes as Ludicrous von Drake urges them to save Iger's tookus?

CRINGE

Some saps will fall for it. I'm guessing there are still some starry-eyed Disney faithful who haven't woken up - no one's kissed them. 

But I don't know how many of those innocent believers in the magic are left.

...ROBBIE WHALEN: First of all, I got to say I love the Professor Ludwig Von Drake video. I think that's some real classic Disney maneuvering there. Although, I do wish they'd done an original cartoon instead of doing like video clip art for that.

But very lighthearted spirit. It shows you that they're trying to project an image of not being super, super worried about the threat posed by Nelson Peltz and other activists to make changes there. But how to make sense of it is this.

Bob Iger came back just over a year ago to run Disney for his second stint as CEO. And at the time, everyone rejoiced. They thought that this was a company that was going to turn around in short order get back on the right track, improve its finances.

And what's happened is that the share price just has not reflected that positivity. The positivity that workers felt when he returned, the positivity that Hollywood kind of felt when he came back to his perch, it's just not shown up in a meaningful way in the stock price, which is still down by about 40% to 50% from where it was three years ago.

So when that happens, and when you don't see those kinds of results that you're expecting and hoping to see, it's perfect conditions for activists to come and try to shake things up, make some changes on the board. And that's what we're seeing right now.

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Normally, I'd say Disney should be "super, super worried," but there's almost a cult-like atmosphere surrounding people who love Disney and who might even own a tiny bit of the Mouse.

A week ago, Yahoo Finance was giving the nod back to Iger.

...JOSH LIPTON: It's interesting-- you know, what's interesting, too, Tim, is just how we talk about these big name personalities and choosing sides. And obviously, we're talking about George Lucas today. But Trian has its own website outlining their case in this fight. And it's just interesting on that site, Tim, when you look through it, they highlight execs from companies that have worked with Nelson Peltz. And on the site, you'll see them saying very nice things about Mr. Peltz kind of statements that support for him. Who do you think is kind of winning this very public campaign here? Or do we not know yet? We're just going to-- we have to wait for early April?

TIM BAYSINGER: Yeah. I think we're going to have to wait probably until early April. I've covered this business too long to ever really make predictions with concreteness, because things always surprise you. But I would say, right now know Disney looks to be sort of in the lead in this battle.

But that was before Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), whom some call "The Big DOG," swung into the dispute with a call supporting Peltz for the board. It was a big score for the activist side.

In a blow to Walt Disney (DIS.N), opens new tab, activist Nelson Peltz received a powerful endorsement in his battle against the entertainment conglomerate on Thursday, when proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recommended shareholders elect him to the board.
ISS, whose recommendations can sway hundreds of investors' votes, said Peltz, a large Disney shareholder, could ensure the board does its job well as it tackles questions of CEO succession and strategy at the home of Mickey Mouse.

The recommendation comes as Disney CEO Bob Iger continues to rally support among a high profile cast that included Emerson Collective founder and president Laurene Powell Jobs on Thursday and Star Wars-creator George Lucas earlier this week.
"Dissident nominee Peltz, as a significant shareholder, could be additive to the succession process, providing assurance to other investors that the board is properly engaged this time around," the report seen by Reuters said.
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I kind of like the cut of his jib, you know?

...Disney, meanwhile, says that Peltz has not "presented a single strategic idea" to the company while campaigning for two years to secure board seats.

Peltz hit back, telling the Times: "They say we know nothing about the movie business — we don’t claim we do — but I don’t think they do, with five big losers in a row. They’ve lost first place in animation, they’ve lost first place in features . . . Maybe it’s time to change management in those divisions."

..."People go to watch a movie or a show to be entertained," said Peltz. "They don’t go to get a message."

Elaborating further, Peltz asked "Why do I have to have a Marvel that’s all women? Not that I have anything against women, but why do I have to do that? Why can’t I have Marvels that are both? Why do I need an all-Black cast?" referring to Black Panther.

I could see where Disney doesn't, but what did he say that wasn't true?

How anyone could think things are going swimmingly and vote to carry on is beyond me.

They must believe in the power of cartoons. 



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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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