by Ray Keating
November 30, 2023
Between board news and Bob Iger interviews, there’s a good deal of Disney news to sort through over the past couple of days. So, what are some key takeaways? Well, one is that Bob Iger is trying to avoid taking responsibility for many of his own decisions.
Before we get to that, however, let’s look at Disney board matters. In a November 30 statement, the company reiterated CEO Bob Iger’s point that Disney “is moving from a period of fixing to a new era of building, as the entire media sector navigates the crosscurrents of the competitive landscape for streaming.” And it continued: “We are executing on four key building opportunities that will be central to our success: achieving significant and sustained profitability in our streaming business; building ESPN into the preeminent digital sports platform; improving the output and economics of our film studios; and turbocharging growth in our Experiences business.”
The statement was issued in response to Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management announcing that it would seek to place new members on the Disney board. The Trian challenge was announced after Disney chose former Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman and former Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch as new board members.
Regarding Trian and Peltz, the company stated:
“Mr. Peltz, in partnership with Isaac Perlmutter, a former Disney executive, intends to take its case to shareholders. Mr. Perlmutter owns 78% of the shares that Mr. Peltz claims beneficial ownership of, or more than 25 million of the 33 million shares. This dynamic is relevant to assessing Mr. Peltz and any other nominees he may put forth as directors, as Mr. Perlmutter was terminated from his employment by Disney earlier this year and has voiced his longstanding personal agenda against Disney’s CEO, Robert A. Iger, which may be different than that of all other shareholders.”
When including former Marvel Entertainment Chairman Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter’s shares, Trian controls roughly 1.8 percent of Disney’s shares, according to The Wall Street Journal. So, Disney seems headed for a proxy fight.
Meanwhile, as CNBC reported, Iger had some interesting things to say on Wednesday at the DealBook Summit in New York. For example, he declared, “Creators lost sight of what their No. 1 objective needed to be. We have to entertain first. It’s not about messages.” He also was quoted: “We have entertained with values and with having a positive impact on the world in many different ways. ‘Black Panther’ is a great example of that. I like being able to entertain if you can infuse it with positive messages and have a good impact on the world. Fantastic. But that should not be the objective. When I came back, what I have really tried to do is to return to our roots.”
Iger’s assessment is on target, but note that last sentence about the company getting back to its roots now that he’s back. You might get the impression that the guy was gone for 11 years rather than 11 months.
Consider the following from the story: “Iger said Disney’s prioritization of messaging over storytelling peaked ‘while [he] was gone’ in 2022, alluding to the 11 months he left his job as Disney’s executive chairman. Iger had been in charge of ‘creative endeavors’ in 2020 and 2021, even while Bob Chapek ran the company as CEO.”
“Peaked”? Okay, maybe. But who was long at the helm as the company climbed the messaging-over-story mountain? It obviously was Iger. This is called “passing the buck.” The notion that Iger wasn’t on board with messaging over storytelling is absurd. That agenda was his baby.
Indeed, poor storytelling recently has hit Disney hard at the box office, with a mixed record on the Disney+ streaming front as well. Iger went on about storytelling over messaging: “I’ve worked hard since I’ve been back to reminding the creative community who are our partners and our employees that that’s the objective. And I don’t really want to tolerate the opposite.”
This shift in attitude certainly is a welcome development, and is smart on Iger’s part. However, failing to accept responsibility for taking the company in the wrong direction in the first place is transparently ridiculous. Just admit that you made mistakes, and are now working to correct them.
Hmmm, someone once wrote: “In your work, in your life, you’ll be more respected and trusted by the people around you if you honestly own up to your mistakes. It’s impossible not to make them; but it is possible to acknowledge them, learn from them, and set an example that it’s okay to get things wrong sometimes.” The author? Bob Iger penned that in his book The Ride of a Lifetime.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com; and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, the Alliance of Saint Michael novels, and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at email@example.com.
The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?
Support the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating Podcast at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1724143. Subscribe at the $8 or $10 level, and get The Disney Planner: The TO DO List Solution by Ray Keating. Remain a supporter and you'll get a FREE BOOK by Ray Keating every six months going forward. Thanks!
The Disney Planner: The TO DO List Solution combines a simple, powerful system for getting things done with encouragement and fun for Disney fans, including those who love Mickey, Marvel, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Pixar, princesses and more.
Consider other books by Ray Keating, including…
• The Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries. There are 18 books in the series now.
• Order The Weekly Economist II: 52 More Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist. Kindle editions and paperbacks via Amazon here and signed books here. And don’t forget the first book in this growing series, i.e., The Weekly Economist: 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist at Amazon.com.
• Cathedral: An Alliance of Saint Michael Novel is at Amazon.
• The Lutheran Planner: The TO DO List Solution combines a simple, powerful system for getting things done with encouragement, inspiration and consolation from the Christian faith.
• Signed editions of Ray’s books are at www.RayKeatingOnline.com.