Insights From Disney’s 2023 Shareholder Meeting
On April 3rd, The Walt Disney Company held its 2023 Shareholder Meeting. This meeting included recorded and live portions, to include a question and answer session. We look at the highlights of that presentation and what it means for Disney moving forward. Difficult issues were put forward and more than just responding to them, Bob Iger as CEO set a tone for the shareholder meeting in a way that was positive, non-defensive and hopeful. And, there was a big message about the future investment of the company in Walt Disney World to the tune of 17 billion dollars. If you want to know what the Walt Disney Company is all about on this their 100th anniversary, then this may be the podcast for you. Join us as we look at insights from Disney’s 2023 Shareholder Meeting.
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The following notes provide an outline of what we discuss on the podcast:
After an opening video celebrating Disney’s 100th anniversary:
From there, Bob Iger delivered a video presentation for this shareholder’s meeting. He stationed it in front of Cinderella Castle.
Big focus on the parks and that being the jumping off point for its media and content.
He spoke of Tron opening on April 4th. He notes that the “story is far from over”.
“You cannot believe the spectacular technological innovations” that will be part of Zootopia when it premieres later this year. This was tied to Zootopia shorts on Disney+ and a new Zootopia film.
Lighthouse Point was emphasized along with the newly acquired cruise ship that will sail out of Singapore.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume III was tied to Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind. That’s coming May 5th.
Journey of Water: Inspired by Moana was highlighted as Bob Iger walked through that section of the park. Signage emphasized learning points on how water plays a key role. It “marks the completion of the our spectacular transformation of Epcot as we conclude the 50th anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World.” This begins a segue to an announcement of a live-action version of Moana made by Dwayne Johnson. He ties the spirit of Maui to his grandfather. Not announced was a Moana addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But it’s likelihood occurs since the film is coming out.
There is a 100 million dollar initiative to bring Disney characters into the children’s hospital experience, to include here in Central Florida.
Several proposals were put forward, four by the company that were approved and three brought forward by Disney shareholders. One dealt with Disney’s involvement with politics from China to the gay agendas in Florida. Another dealt with what was called “stupid” policies around gay agendas and abortion. Finally a third dealt with with the same issue but from an opposite point of view, showing that Disney has been actually giving political expenditures report toward individuals who are voting and supporting the very topics Disney has been against. All three proposals were turned down. In many ways, there were valid issues at the heart of those proposals, many of which I’ve discussed on this website and podcast. I definitely am a believer in transparency. But the presentations by those individuals were largely demeaning and derogatory.
Part of this was a presentation of the board who were presented for approval. I showcase a grid of those below. There has been considerable effort to make the board look more diverse.
Questions and Answers
Several individuals surprisingly were individuals–really fans–who have had the privilege to ask questions at previous shareholder meetings prior. Some were very much advocates, welcoming Iger back and a few were very confrontative.
A question was asked about buying some $1 billion in content assets from Netflix and others. The highlight of that was the caller suggesting that Disney should negotiate with Universal in getting Marvel rights east of the Mississippi as conversations occurred in selling Hulu.
One pass holder has labored for years in shareholder meetings to establish a Premier Passport and then re-establish it. Bob Iger stated that he anticipated him asking the question and had asked others who shared with him that they found there was such a small percentage utilizing the passport that it didn’t warrant or justify the cost and overhead.
There was questions asked about Disney’s relationship to the Florida State government in the last year and its effect not only on the Reedy Creek Improvement District, but on shareholder value. Iger utilized this opportunity to say “We love the state of Florida” and that the relationship is and should be a two way street benefitting both. He noted that the company may not have handled the particular issue very well, but that still the company has the constitutional right to express what they believe. It seems really wrong to Iger. To him the efforts from the Governor’s office sounds not only anti-business but anti-Florida.
In Iger noted that 75,000 employees live in Florida and 50 million visitors they have brought in this year alone, including 8 million internationally. He noted that Disney is currently planning on investing $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next 10 years. Those investments will create 13,000 new jobs and thousands of indirect jobs, as well as attracting more tourists and even more taxes. To that end he noted that Disney is the largest taxpayer in the state. He said, “Any action that thwarts these efforts simply to retaliate is anti-business and anti-Florida.”
One caller noted that Disney ought not get involved in political matters. Bob emphasized that as CEO of the company he feels he needs to do what is best for his Cast Members. Disney can’t weigh on every issue, and some issues are gray. But he feels that when he does take a position, there is a true reason why, largely because it affects customers or Cast Members. He notes that many companies weighed in during the civil rights period and even back to World War II by supporting or by standing by the side.
One Cast Member, Chris, talked about how he and his mother were really supported by benefits–particularly health care benefits–that they received and how much that made a difference. Bob Iger shared how there had been emphasis on child care, but that there were issues relating to aging, and that the issue hit home to Iger as he had lost his father and his mother was dealing with Alzheimers.
Two final callers emphasized in a negative and then a positive manner Disney’s emphasis on activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The former disagreed that the company has rights to take political stands especially as it relates to LGBTQ+. He felt that stock value dropping and layoffs were tied to that. Iger responded respectfully but put some perspective on the stories that emphasized the right values of family and friendship; that good conquers evil; and that there is a bright and better day tomorrow. Iger noted that he is sensitive the idea that stories should be entertainment driven, not agenda driven. Iger wants parents to trust Disney while fostering greater acceptance, understanding and hope.
The latter caller was thrilled with Disney’s effort to be more diverse and commended the company particularly in the selection of a more diverse board. She felt that Disney did great things in serving the underserved in this world.
Disney will grant their 150,000th wish through Make a Wish. One out of every two wishes granted in the U.S. are Disney wishes. The first wish was over 40 years ago at Disneyland. Disney is proud of the positive role they have made in the world.
Bob Iger shared that Disney’s “longevity is rooted in a strong foundation of creativity and the deep emotional connection that generations of fans and audiences have forged with our stories and characters. Audiences want to see themselves and the very best of humanity reflected in the stories that we tell. And that’s why our onscreen heroes our guided by kindness, understanding, respect and optimism. And why Disney strives to incorporate those ideals in everything they do. It is such a privilege to be part of an institution that brings so much joy to the young, and as we say, the young at heart…I am confident that Disney’s brightest days are yet to come.”
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