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Disney names Mark Parker chairman, opposes Nelson Peltz push to join board

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Mark Parker

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The Walt Disney Company on Wednesday named Mark Parker, the executive chairman of Nike, its next chairman of the board, while also announcing it opposes activist investor Nelson Peltz’s attempt to join the board.

Disney’s announcements signal a potentially big and messy fight. Nearly two months ago, Peltz’s Trian Fund Management took an approximately $800 million stake in the company and began seeking a board seat. Trian reportedly wants to make operational improvements and reduce costs, and it has expressed its opposition to Bob Iger’s reappointment as Disney’s CEO.

“While senior leadership of The Walt Disney Company and its Board of Directors have engaged with Mr. Peltz numerous times over the last few months, the Board does not endorse the Trian Group nominee, and recommends that shareholders not support its nominee, and instead vote for all the company’s nominees,” Disney said in its release Wednesday.

Peltz is set to respond with a filing later Wednesday, CNBC’s David Faber reported.

The new drama at Disney comes after a rough year for the entertainment giant’s stock as soaring streaming costs and a slim slate of theatrical releases ate into profits. Shares of the company closed Wednesday at $96.33. A year ago, Disney was trading at around $160 a share.

Parker will succeed Susan Arnold, whose 15-year term limit will to an end after the company’s next annual meeting of shareholders. The date for the meeting has yet to be announced.¬†Disney’s board will be reduced to 11 members following Arnold’s departure.

“During his four decades at Nike, Mark has led one of the world’s most recognized consumer brands through various market evolutions and a successful CEO transition, and he is uniquely positioned to chair the Disney Board during this period of transformation,” Arnold said in a statement Wednesday. Parker has been a member of Disney’s board for seven years. Nike didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iger’s stunning return in November came with a promise of a two-year stint that would spark renewed growth. The CEO also plans to help find his next successor, after the tenure of his previous handpicked replacement, Bob Chapek, fell apart.

Disney previously announced companywide cost-cutting measures in November, including a ban on all but essential work travel and a freeze on new hires for all but a few critical positions. Iger upheld that hiring freeze when he returned to the helm of the company later that month.

“Mr. Iger’s mandate is to use his two-year term and depth of experience in the industry to adapt the business model for the shifting media landscape, rebalancing investment with revenue opportunity while bringing a renewed focus on the creative talent that has made The Walt Disney Company the envy of the industry,” the company said.


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