Disney Board Will Meet With Institutions

March 23, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Walt Disney Company's newly minted Chairman of the Board George Mitchell has agreed to meet with a sextet of institutional investors to discuss the performance and future of the company.

Disney released a letter from Mitchell announcing the intentions of the board to meet with six institutional investors that had sent a letter requesting such a meeting.   “We look forward to hearing your questions and to sharing with you details on the performance of The Walt Disney Company,” Mitchell said in the letter.   “We remain confident in the company’s strategic positioning and future growth potential.”

In addition, Mitchell said he and fellow board member Judy Estrin had already expressed willingness to hold such a meeting.

Together the group controls more than $500 billion in assts, including 33.7 million shares of Disney stock, a total that is less than 2% of the total shares outstanding of the Burbank, California-based company.   The group includes fiduciaries and managers of:

  • New York State Common Retirement Fund
  • Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds
  • California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS)
  • Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS)
  • North Carolina Retirement Systems
  • California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

In their letter, the institutions said “we rem ain deeply concerned that our investments and the future of this company are in jeopardy.”   As evidence of this concern, the letter pointed to a swoon in Disney’s stock over the past five years, losing more than 20% of its value over that period.  

Thus, “such a meeting would send a necessary signal to the market place that the Disney Board is willing to engage in a constructive dialogue regarding our mutual interests as fiduciaries and shareowner representatives,” the letter said.

Institutional investors are no doubt feeling the time is right to set up such a meeting. Earlier this month, a group of institutional investors successfully lobbied Disney’s board of directors to split the role of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), naming Mitchell to the chairman position and leaving embattled CEO Michael Eisner with one less job(See   Beleaguered Disney Head Tries to Shore Up Support).