Hedge Fund Billionaire Nelson Peltz Brings On Ex-Disney CFO In Proxy Fight

"The Disney I know and love has lost its way," said former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo.

Jay Rasulo (L) and Bob Iger in 2005.
Jay Rasulo (L) and Bob Iger in 2005. Kent Phillips/Walt Disney Co. via Getty Images

The proxy battle between The Walt Disney Company (DIS) CEO Bob Iger and activist investor Nelson Peltz now involves one of Disney’s former executives. Peltz, who runs the hedge fund Trian Partners, is seeking board seats at Disney in a bid to push for management changes. This week, he announced two nominations for himself and former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo

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“Jay and I have the strategic, operating, financial, and governance expertise to help Disney and are committed to working with the other members of the board and management team to address the fundamental issues underlying the Company’s continued poor performance,” Peltz, 81, said in a statement through Trian Partners yesterday (Dec. 14). 

Rasulo was the financial chief of Disney for five years, from 2010 to 2015. Earlier in his career, he also held other executive roles at Disney’s parks and resorts division. Rasulo currently works as an independent investor and sits on the board of iHeartMedia.

In his last year at Disney, Rasulo was considered for a second-in-command position as chief operating officer to CEO Iger, which could have put him on a path to CEO after Iger’s retirement. (Iger announced at the time he would retire in 2018). Rasulo was snubbed when Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs was appointed COO instead, and he left Disney a few months later. Staggs stayed in the role for only a year. He stepped down in 2016 after Iger and Disney’s board decided he would not be the CEO’s successor. 

“The Disney I know and love has lost its way,” said Rasulo in the Trian statement. 

Disney’s share price is up 4.6 percent this year, underperforming the S&P 500’s 23 percent gain. Disney shares peaked at $197 in March 2021 and are currently traded at more than 60 percent less.

This is Peltz’s second attempt at garnering a board seat at Disney. He nominated himself in January after declaring Disney was a “company in crisis.” At the time, Trian owned 0.5 percent of the company, or 9.4 million shares valued at $900 million. 

Disney fired back and said Peltz did not have enough experience or knowledge of Disney to be on the board. Peltz gave up his campaign in February but relaunched another proxy fight at the end of November. And although he may not have the company experience as Disney said, he’s now brought along someone who does: Rasulo. 

With the new stakes, Disney said it will review Peltz’s nominations. His hedge fund now owns $3 billion worth of Disney shares, thanks to former Marvel Entertainment CEO Issac Perlmutter giving up his shares to Peltz in October.    

Hedge Fund Billionaire Nelson Peltz Brings On Ex-Disney CFO In Proxy Fight