The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) stock price has gone up for all the wrong reasons. Three aggressive investors want management out. ValueAct Capital wants management to change its turnaround plan. It joins activist investors Nelson Peltz and Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, former board chair of Marvel Entertainment. The target of their ire is Disney CEO Bob Iger.
The Trouble With Bob IgerIger is again the chief executive officer, brought back last year after retiring the year before. He promised to make Disney a shining star again for Wall Street. All he has delivered is trouble. Cost cuts, one of his strategies, have not yielded improved results, nor has Iger come up with an acceptable way to repair one of the world’s most visible and valuable brands. (These are the 20 best animated films of all time.)
Bob Iger has the wind at his back with Disney’s theme park business. It is a steady earner, and the number of visits continues to grow, even though Disney has raised visitor prices. Consumer spending nationwide has been strong, and this has helped the theme park numbers. Disney’s parks in Asia and Europe also do well.
Iger has not figured out what to do with his legacy media assets, including ABC and ESPN. Advertising has been soft, which undermines ABC’s earnings. ESPN has lost advertising and some of its revenue from cable systems that carry the channel. Iger wants to sell a piece to a strategic partner, which might be one of the sports leagues. He has no takers.
Disney’s Largest ProblemDisney’s largest problem is with its streaming business, led by Disney+. Iger started the service in 2019. He priced it low at $6.99 a month, which gained subscribers but not enough revenue. The subscriber count rose to about 160 million. As he increases prices, some of those people will go away. Disney has lost billions of dollars on streaming and still has to contend with industry leaders Amazon and Netflix.
If Bob Iger were up against a single hostile activist investor, it would be one thing. Three may be too much for him to handle.
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