Disney Punches Back at Nelson Peltz: Video Frames Activists as “Disruptive and Destructive”

Disney is taking a cue from the presidential election in an escalation of its proxy battle with Trian Partners.

The company on Monday released a slickly produced video, similar in format to a political ad, taking aim at Trian’s two Disney board nominees, Nelson Peltz and Jay Rasulo, and highlighting the achievements of the company and CEO Bob Iger since he returned to the company.

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The video opens with ominous music, as the narrator (speaking in a voice familiar to any viewer of political attack ads) wonders “What’s the harm?” in letting Peltz and Rasulo on the Disney board.

“If they succeed, Disney could suffer the same fate as other companies that they have infiltrated, such as GE and Dupont,” he continues, referencing two infamous Peltz proxy fights as images of falling stock prices overlayed appear on the screen.

The video goes on to attack Peltz and Rasulo personally, with the narrator saying of Peltz, “His quest also seems more about vanity than a belief in Disney. Why else would he sell 500,000 Disney shares over he past six months in the middle of his proxy fight?” and playing a clip of Peltz on CNBC saying that he does not claim to have any media experience.

As for Rasulo, the video calls him “a former Disney employee who was passed over for a promotion nearly a decade ago … he hasn’t been employed since leaving Disney, and the last board he joined, the stock tanked.”

Rasulo previously served as the head of Disney’s theme parks business and later as its CFO, and he left the company in 2015 after Tom Staggs was named COO.

The video also notes Trian’s relationship with Ike Perlmutter, whom the narrator refers to as “another disgruntled former employee” who “has a well-documented grudge against CEO Bob Iger.”

But the video concludes like any good political ad does, with the ominous music switching to hopeful music, and the narrator’s cadence becoming more pleasant, as he ran through all of the changes enacted by Iger, from stock buybacks to cost savings to the investment and partnership with Epic Games.

“The Walt Disney Company has turned a corner and is focused on creating lasting, long-term value,” the video says, before concluding: “The choice is clear. Vote Disney.”

A Trian spokesperson responded to the video in a statement: “The recent Disney video contains false and misleading statements designed to divert from Disney’s poor performance over many years. To suggest that Nelson Peltz is an ‘infiltrator’ (he has been elected overwhelmingly by shareholders in 48 elections) is offensive and highly dismissive of shareholder democracy.”

The video is an escalation in the public war of words between Disney and Trian. The last video released by the company, featuring Professor Ludwig Von Drake, urged shareholders to only vote for Disney’s board nominees, and was more lighthearted in tone.

Peltz launched his proxy fight (his second in as many years) in January, bringing on Rasulo in a strategic shift from the last time. This time, there is a wild card in the form of another activist, Blackwells Capital, which has proposed its own slate of nominees, though Blackwells does not own a meaningful stake in the company.

Earlier this month, Trian released its whitepaper arguing for its changes to Disney, while Value Act, another activist that has aligned itself with Disney, published its own presentation in support of the company.

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