Some people who look at the proxy for Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) may say Robert Iger, former chief executive and current executive board chair, had a tough year. He made $21.0 million for 2020, compared to $47.5 million in 2019 and $65.6 million in 2018. However, last year, he fired 32,000 people and furloughed thousands, mostly at its theme parks. The proxy also says the median compensation of a Disney employee was $51,073, so Iger’s pay compared to that is staggering.
Under Iger, Disney managed to lose $2.8 billion on revenue of $65.4 billion. The COVID-19 pandemic was blamed, as it hammered Disney’s theme parks and movie studio results. The company’s only real outstanding success was the Disney+ streaming service. Subscriber levels reached 86.8 million just before the end of last year. Disney said it hoped the number would reach up to 260 million by the end of fiscal 2024. However, Iger should not be paid for an uncertain future.
The Compensation Committee’s report described why Iger was paid so well, despite the drop from the previous year and in the face of the effects of the pandemic:
With this backdrop, the Compensation Committee’s decisions for the fiscal 2020 program, described in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis that follows, were made to motivate executives and recognize them for their unwavering efforts and leadership throughout the pandemic, while taking into account the pandemic’s impact on the financial performance of the Company and the broader employee workforce. As you will see described in the following analysis, the Committee considered this backdrop in determining compensation for the Company’s executives, including taking action to meaningfully reduce NEO compensation and further incorporating ESG metrics for diversity and inclusion into executives’ go-forward compensation structures.
Iger’s “unwavering effort” included putting thousands out of work, many of whom will not find new jobs for months, if not longer.