Abigail Disney Poised to Mount Shareholder Battle Against Bob Chapek
SCOOP: The entertainment industry scion, upset with the Mouse House leader's $32 million paycheck, wants him to return some of that cash as the stock craters
Abigail Disney, whose grandfather co-founded The Walt Disney Company nearly a century ago, is poised to mount a legal battle to challenge and perhaps even claw back some of CEO Bob Chapek’s annual pay, according to three individuals familiar with the matter.
The heiress has spent the last three months quietly courting institutional investors to support a shareholder-backed salvo against Chapek at next year’s annual meeting, multiple insiders told TheWrap. The entertainment giant has been under fire for doubling Chapek’s annual compensation to $32.5 million in 2021 amid a slew of corporate fumbles that include a public legal battle with “Black Widow” star Scarlett Johansson, a botched response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and this month’s abrupt firing of TV content boss Peter Rice.
The strategy Abigail Disney laid out in at least three meetings is that her name recognition and the company’s recent missteps would amplify a wider strategy to give shareholders more clout in challenging Chapek’s compensation. The brewing proxy fight marks a major escalation in her relentless criticism of the company, injecting a dramatic flair to Hollywood’s reputation of lavishly rewarding top executives at the expense of rank-and-file workers.
Her push also comes nearly two decades after her father, Roy E. Disney, successfully led a shareholder revolt that led to the 2004 resignation of then-CEO Michael Eisner after years of financial underperformance — and the ascendance of his successor, Bob Iger.
While the nature of Abigail’s Disney complaint is novel in terms of shareholder proxy fights, Disney’s recent disappointing performance under Chapek — the company’s stock price is down by more than 40% this year — gives the issue considerable heft. “You would have rolled your eyes if a shareholder wanted to challenge compensation — it ain’t never gonna happen,” said one Wall Street analyst who declined to go on the record for fear of reprisal from Disney. “But, this is Disney vs. Disney and who isn’t going to watch a fight between a corporate politics underdog and a veteran who can’t seem to land a punch?”