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Iger’s Living Peltz

There were a few Easter eggs in Bob Iger’s analysis of Disney’s quarterly performance that may appease Nelson Peltz.
There were a few Easter eggs in Bob Iger’s analysis of Disney’s quarterly performance that may appease Nelson Peltz. Photo: WIktor Szymanowicz/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
November 15, 2023

What will Nelson Peltz, the hyper-aggressive activist hedge fund investor also known as “The Smiling Crocodile,” do next? That’s become one of the great questions looming over the media industry these days. Last year, Nelson and his hedge fund, Trian Partners, accumulated around a $900 million equity stake in Disney, advocated for a bunch of changes, and then began a proxy fight to get a seat on the company’s board of directors. Earlier this year, though, Nelson decided to end the proxy fight after Bob Iger gave him a number of concessions that he was hoping for: $5.5 billion in cost cuts; the elimination of 7,000 jobs; and a potential return of the Disney dividend, which was chopped during the pandemic. “Disney plans to do everything we wanted them to do,” Nelson told CNBC in February.

And yet, the Smiling Crocodile still smelled blood in the water. As Disney’s stock sunk to its lowest level in nine years, Nelson quietly replenished his stake in the company. In October, Nelson revealed that Trian now owns 30 million Disney shares—up from the 6.4 million it owned at the end of the second quarter—worth nearly $2.8 billion, making Nelson one of Disney’s largest individual shareholders, with far more skin in the game than the other directors calling the shots in the boardroom. Now, he wants two board seats—one for him and one, probably, for his son, Matthew—and might re-engage his proxy fight early next year if he doesn’t get them.