Disney appoints Nike’s Mark Parker as CEO

The board of directors of Walt Disney Co. has elected former Nike CEO Mark Parker as its next chairman, the company announced on Wednesday. The move comes as the company faces a proxy fight with an influential activist shareholder.

The change will come into effect after the Company’s Annual General Meeting. Parker, a Disney board member since 2016 and currently Nike executive chairman, will succeed Susan Arnold, a veteran business leader who is not standing for re-election due to Disney’s 15-year term limit for board members.

The date of the shareholders’ meeting was not announced.

Parker’s pick for the chairman position is the latest major leadership change at Disney, which brought back Bob Iger as chief executive in November to replace the ousted Bob Chapek. Prior to the Chapek era, Iger was CEO of the Burbank entertainment giant for 15 years.

With Arnold’s departure, the board will be reduced to 11 members.

“Mark Parker’s vision, incredible experience and wise advice have been invaluable to Disney and I look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role, alongside our other directors, as we chart the future course for this amazing company .” Iger said in a statement.

The makeup of Disney’s board of directors is critical, as the panel will decide on the selection of Iger’s eventual successor. Iger’s new contract as CEO expires after two years.

Parker will chair a newly created succession planning committee within the board, which will advise on planning Iger’s succession, “including reviewing internal and external candidates,” the company said.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to be Disney’s Chairman and look forward to working closely with Bob and his management team on a growth strategy that balances investment and profitability while maintaining Disney’s core mission of creative excellence to deliver.” value to shareholders,” Parker said in a statement. “At the same time, identifying and preparing a successful CEO successor is a top priority for me and the Board, and that process has already begun.”

Parker served as Nike chairman and CEO until 2020.

In addition to selecting Parker as chairman of the board, Disney rejected bids from billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz, whose firm Trian Partners nominated him for election as a director at the shareholder meeting against the board-recommended nominees and made a proposal to change Disney’s articles of association.

Trian said Wednesday it owns 9.4 million shares of Disney stock worth about $900 million. In a statement, Trian noted Disney stock’s underperformance and criticized Disney on multiple fronts, including “failed succession planning” and a “flawed” direct-to-consumer — or streaming — strategy that has struggled with profitability despite it all high subscriber numbers and sales.

“Disney has an incredible legacy as one of the leading and most successful entertainment companies in the world, having built some of the most iconic consumer brands and an unparalleled content portfolio that resonates with viewers of all ages around the world,” said Peltz. “But in recent years, the company has strayed from its path, resulting in a rapid deterioration in its financial performance, from a steady dividend-paying business with high free cash flow to a highly leveraged company with reduced profitability and weak free cash flow conversion.” cash flows. ”

Disney said in a statement that it has worked with Peltz “numerous times over the past few months” but does not support his candidacy, instead recommending investors vote for his selection. In trying to fend off Peltz’s stand-in fight, Disney praised Iger’s leadership.

“Mr. Iger’s mission is to leverage his two-year tenure and extensive experience in the industry to adapt the business model to the changing media landscape, rebalancing investments and revenue opportunities while restoring focus to the creative talent that drives The Walt Disney Company has made it the envy of the industry,” according to the company. “Mr. Iger has already taken significant steps to refocus content creation and distribution and reposition Disney’s streaming platforms and linear broadcast and cable networks to increase profitability for the company.”

Iger has already started making big strides in transforming Disney over the past two months.

He immediately assigned a task force to restructure the company and restore the power of the company’s creative leaders. On Monday, he ordered employees to return to the office four days a week, Monday through Thursday, a relatively rigid return-to-office schedule for the media industry.

The company on Tuesday revised policies related to annual passes, hotel parking and ticketing for its parks and resorts, which has drawn criticism from fans over nickle-and-diming guests.

Disney faces massive challenges in its second Iger age, including growing concerns about the viability of the streaming business model Disney has bet heavily on with Disney+.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2023-01-11/disney-name-nikes-mark-parker-as-board-chairman-replacing-susan-arnold Disney appoints Nike’s Mark Parker as CEO

Sarah Ridley

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