The Iger Narrative Meets Its Nemesis

Nelson Peltz
Nelson Peltz, the founder of Trian Partners, has gone public with scathing criticisms of Disney. Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
January 12, 2023

How dare this guy! Bob Iger did not return triumphantly to Disney to be second-guessed, and certainly not by an 80-year-old former P&G and GE investor and former junk bond salesman like Nelson Peltz, the founder of Trian Partners, who went public with some pretty scathing criticisms this week in his pursuit of a Disney board seat. A “company in crisis”? A “flawed” streaming strategy? Ongoing “self-inflicted” wounds? That is not The Iger Narrative.

Iger is a famously careful manager of his company’s image (and his own), and he’s been very clear about The Iger Narrative since he returned as C.E.O. in November: He’s giving power back to the creatives who felt marginalized by his successor/predecessor Bob Chapek. He’s comforting theme parks fans by ending fees to park at hotels and to download ride photos. He’s strolling with kids down Disneyland’s Main Street, honoring the late Barbara Walters in her ABC tribute special, and enjoying the College Football Playoff’s championship game, broadcast on ESPN, in a SoFi Stadium box (standing next to sports manager Ken Katz).

And while the Disney stock chart in 2022 resembled that final drop on Splash Mountain—down 45 percent, hitting an eight-year nadir—Peltz knows this was part of an industry-wide retreat following the Great Netflix Correction. Everyone’s drinking their hangover cures these days, cutting costs and walking back those lofty all-in-on-streaming ambitions. Indeed, in response to Peltz and Trian, Disney explained that Iger’s already got a plan to “adapt the business model for the shifting media landscape, rebalancing investment with revenue opportunity while bringing a renewed focus on the creative talent that has made the Walt Disney Company the envy of the industry.”