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Boardroom activism will cause tremendous grief for Disney’s Bob Iger

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Investor appetite for woke corporatism has its limits and it normally begins with a declining share price. For further proof, take a look at what’s taking place at Disney.

For years the “House of Mouse” was the epicenter of political correctness. Investors largely ignored this circus (including a same-sex kissing scene in children’s programming) because Disney’s stock soared.

Now not. After longtime CEO Bob Iger retired in 2020, successor Bob Chapek proved to be far less adept as a manager and a seller of wokeness. Pandemic theme-park closures didn’t help. Plus he was also crushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for opposing a law that prevented schools from teaching sex ed to 6-year-olds and lost Disney’s special tax status.

Much of his programming turned out to be a dud and his streaming strategy floundered. Disney’s stock collapsed a lot that Chapek was shown the door nearly two years into the job.

Iger, 71, made his return to right the ship and got more grief. His stock has largely flatlined because costs are up and streaming stays in limbo, eating into revenues and profits.

A duo of nettlesome activist investors at the moment are circling the corporate like vultures. Dan Loeb’s Third Point and Nelson Peltz’s Trian Partners are unlike passive fund managers in that they use their ownership positions to advocate for changes they imagine will lead immediately to a better share price, current ­management be damned.

Nelson Peltz is reportedly trying to encourage more cuts to extend Disney’s stock prices.AP

Each have big stakes in Disney and, for starters, each want Iger to focus less on programming that appeals to AOC and more on stuff that appeals to Middle America,. They desire a coherent streaming strategy, cost cuts and way more. 

Peltz, specifically, should make Disney and Iger squirm. He preaches “constructive engagement” with firms he’s targeting, but he’s a longtime critic of Iger and has a big, $940 million stake within the stock that he’ll likely add to as he gears up for war. Meanwhile, look what he did at GE: He defenestrated CEO Jeff Immelt just two years after acquiring shares because he believed Immelt couldn’t make his numbers and the stock floundered.

Immelt’s successor went bye-bye a few 12 months later for a similar reason. Current management installed by Peltz is within the technique of breaking up what was one among the most important conglomerates in US history.

OK, Peltz often gets his way and isn’t known for his patience when his money is being wasted away because it was at GE. A boardroom battle for the ages is for certain now that Peltz demanded a board seat and Iger told him to pound sand. Iger is about to up the ante, I’m told, by filing a preliminary proxy to elucidate why he thinks Peltz is unqualified for the seat.

Thus far, Peltz says he doesn’t wish to pull a GE on Disney and break it up, and Iger can stay as CEO for the subsequent two years. But based on his history, Peltz won’t stand for getting the stiff-arm if Disney’s stock doesn’t start to maneuver higher and fast.

That might mean, along with all the things else on Peltz’s wish list, the shedding of Disney’s so-called “noncore assets” to spice up profits. Bankers tell me sales of Disney’s sports cable network ESPN, and possibly all of its ABC television network, are on the table and an actual possibility to appease Peltz’s desire for a better stock price. 

Also most definitely on the table is Iger’s job if he doesn’t make his numbers.

DJ Solly’s last dance?

Goldman Sachs CEO David SolomonTop Goldman Sachs partners want David Solomon out as CEO, and will leak information to embarrass the corporate’s board to pressure his ouster. AFP via Getty Images

Never before has such a well-telegraphed, fairly routine round of layoffs on Wall Street created an even bigger stir. But it surely seems nothing goes down quietly when it has David Solomon’s fingerprints on it.

Solomon, as this column has identified, is the beleaguered CEO of Goldman Sachs. He’s a polarizing figure inside the celebrated white-shoe investment bank — and it goes beyond his internally controversial side hustle as a DJ in the course of the summer Hamptons party scene.

A contingent of top partners want him out, they usually might get their way in the event that they can leak enough bad stuff to embarrass the Goldman board to make a change.

Just as Solomon was poised to announce a hardly draconian, roughly 6% culling of its staff (dubbed “David’s Demolition Day”), The Post’s Lydia Moynihan reported that Solomon callously ended Goldman’s free coffee perk.

It would take greater than just a few leaks to can Solomon, but they’re symptoms of a weak management hand. They usually can ultimately be deadly at a spot like Goldman, with its “Game of Thrones” management upheavals.

The culture of Goldman is one among constant struggle for power between the traders and investment bankers. When one side controls the balance sheet and the opposite side is in power, change isn’t far off. 

Recall how trader Jon Corzine (a future Latest Jersey senator and governor) was replaced at the highest following a banking coup led by lead banker Hank Paulson (a future treasury secretary). Traders Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn nudged out Paulson & Co. when trading profits soared; Solomon, a longtime banker, prodded out Blankfein during a deal boom.

Solomon now finds himself in the midst of the Goldman CEO dance amid higher trading revenues, a slowdown in deals and the near-collapse of his foray into retail banking. For him there’s a pair of the way out: Pray for more deals and fast (difficult). Or finally discover a merger partner that I’m told he’s been waiting to seize upon when asset values ­decline.

The suitable merger (with Goldman being the official acquirer) may even probably keep Solomon in his job for so long as he wants.

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