Nelson Peltz withholds votes from Disney CEO Bob Iger in proxy battle

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Nelson Peltz, founder and chief executive officer of Trian Fund Management, during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute Priority Summit in Miami, Florida, US, on Thursday, March 30, 2023.
Marco Bello | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management withheld its votes from Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger when voting its shares in the bitter proxy battle the asset management firm is waging against the entertainment giant, according to sources who monitor the situation.

The move is hardly shocking, given the acrimonious nature of the battle.

However, it is counter to Trian’s proxy recommendations, and it doesn’t mesh with the public statements Peltz has made about wanting to work together with management if he is elected to the Disney board.

In recent weeks, Disney has stepped up its attacks on Trian and Peltz. “Correcting Trian’s Fact With Fiction” was the headline of a recent investor presentation from Disney, over a picture of Pinocchio with a growing nose.

“Disney is stupid because I’m not trying to fire Bob Iger, I want to help him,” Peltz recently told the Financial Times. “We don’t fire CEOs.”

When asked for comment, a Trian spokesperson directed CNBC to a press release repeating its proxy recommendations and stating that Trian supports Iger as a candidate for the board and as CEO.

Withholding its votes from Iger, however, is hardly a supportive move of his leadership, and it raises questions about how toxic of an environment the boardroom would be if Peltz is elected to the Disney board next month.

Disney has nominated a slate of 12 directors, including Iger. Trian is officially recommending shareholders vote for Peltz and former Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo and to withhold votes for Disney nominees Maria Elena Lagomasino and Michael Froman, who are current board members.

Trian owns a relatively small position in Disney, representing about 1.5% of the outstanding shares when combined with the ownership position of former Marvel Entertainment Chairman and CEO Ike Perlmutter, who has sided with Peltz in the proxy battle.

The Disney board meeting will be held April 3, and Trian could change its vote between now and then.

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