Disney's Iger Defends His Position on Trump Advisory Panel

  • Company benefits from being ‘in the room,’ CEO tells investors
  • Politics come to fore at entertainment giant’s annual meeting

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger said he plans to stay on a presidential advisory panel after activists at the company’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday asked him to step down from the position.

A representative of the Colorado People’s Alliance told Iger, 66, that his presence on the panel made it seem like he was endorsing President Donald Trump’s agenda. Iger said Disney shareholders and others benefited from his presence “in the room” with the president.

“I happen to believe this company, as has this country, has benefited from an open and fair immigration policy,” Iger said in response to one of the activists. “I don’t happen to believe policies that single people out by religion are fair and just. That’s just one example of things that may come up.”

The questions were the most politically charged at a Disney annual meeting in recent memory. Iger responded to comments from investors on immigration, alleged bias at ABC News, employee relations and the status of African-American collegiate athletes. There was also the more mundane, like replacing the paper towels with hand dryers in theme park bathrooms to help the environment.

Iger drew applause from investors at the meeting for his defense of the company’s values and his decision to stay on the panel.

“I thought he did an excellent job,” said Betsy Williams, a retired saleswoman and Disney shareholder from Cincinnati who has attended several annual meetings. “Everybody needs to have a voice. You want somebody that has the president’s ear.”

Traveling Meeting

Disney’s annual meeting was held in Denver. The company, which is headquartered in Burbank, California, holds the meeting in a different city every year to make it easier for shareholders from around the country to attend.

The world’s largest entertainment company is working through a year that Iger has called an “anomaly.”

After years of strong growth coming out the last recession, Disney’s net income is forecast to fall slightly this year, according to analysts’ projections. They also project 2 percent higher revenue, the smallest gain in years.

Disney has said earnings will be crimped by higher rights fees for sporting events on its ESPN network, a smaller film slate and weakness in its merchandise sales following the “Frozen” and “Star Wars” bonanzas of years past. Disney, like other operators of cable TV networks, has been losing subscribers to online viewing options such as Netflix Inc.

A majority of 84 percent of shareholders approved Disney’s executive compensation plans.
Shareholders rejected proposals for greater disclosure of Disney’s lobbying efforts and for loosened rules on investors’ ability to nominate candidates for the board.

Disney also said attendance at its new Shanghai resort has reached almost 8 million and that the company expects to exceed 10 million by the first anniversary in June.

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