Walt Disney shareholders backed Chief Executive Bob Iger and other company directors Wednesday, defeating a campaign by activist investors who argued the storied entertainment giant had underperformed in the streaming-television era.

The vote to re-elect all 12 of Disney’s current board members, announced at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, ended a multimillion-dollar, mud-slinging battle launched by billionaire Nelson Peltz and Blackwells Capital.

Peltz, CEO of Trian Fund Management, and Blackwells were seeking five seats between them on Disney’s board. The activists argued the $225 billion media company has bungled its CEO succession planning, lost its creative spark and failed to properly harness new technology.

The tussle was bitter and closely watched, serving as a referendum on Disney’s efforts to reinvigorate its film and television franchises, make its streaming business profitable and find partners to help build sports network ESPN’s digital future.

Both sides spent millions of dollars on campaigns trying to persuade voters and launched public and personal attacks.

Peltz had been seeking a board seat for himself and for former Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo. Disney said the pair lacked the necessary skills, offered “nothing new” in their suggestions for improvement and noted that Rasulo had been passed over to succeed Iger.

Peltz at one point responded that Disney was “stupid” in opposing him, arguing that he was trying to help Iger.

Trian was Disney’s fifth-biggest shareholder with a 1.76% stake as of Dec. 31, according to LSEG data. The hedge fund’s $3 billion bet on Disney was largely responsible for its underperformance last year relative to its activist peers, according to financial details provided to Reuters by a Trian investor.

Disney’s shares peaked in March 2021 at $201.91 when the company was gaining streaming subscribers. The stock price later fell as the streaming division kept losing money. Disney’s board fired then-CEO Bob Chapek, bringing Iger back to the helm.

This year, shares have recovered 35% to close at $122.82 on Tuesday, lifted by positive earnings and initiatives such as a $1.5 billion investment in “Fortnite” maker Epic Games and a sports streaming app with Fox Corp and Warner Bros Discovery. They remain down 39% from their record high.

Iger, 72, secured a string of public endorsements rarely seen in proxy fights. They included “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, members of the Disney family, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs.

Disney also received the backing from proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis. Another advisory firm, Institutional Shareholder Services, had recommended Peltz, and pension fund giant California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) backed Peltz and Rasulo.


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