The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) shareholders were on the cusp of voting on the amendment to board nominations, but the company made a major change to its corporate governance guidelines that shareholders were made aware of through a regulatory finding just hours before the meeting was set to begin. The change will now ensure that the board of directors are forced to justify the company’s policy of having one person hold the chairman and chief executive positions on an annual basis.
New governance guidelines
“The chairman of the board shall in the normal course be an independent director unless the board concludes that, in the light of the circumstances then present when any such decision is made, the best interests of shareholders would be otherwise better served,” Disney said in its early morning filing.
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger has had both jobs since 2012. Iger will be stepping down from the media giant which owns ESPN, ABC and other properties on June 30th, 2016. His imminent departure has led to growing speculation as to whom will replace him. Recently, speculation and conjecture has been building around the possible appointment of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s CEO Sheryl Sandberg and re-elected Disney board member to the post.
After the issue of the chairman and CEO roles was put to bed, the re-election of board members became the next order of business. All ten current board members were re-elected with no less than 92% of the vote. Those re-elected included Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) Co-Founder Jack Dorsey, who joined the board in December, and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Present chairman of the board Iger won the support of 99% of ballots cast.
Disney fun, theme parks and films
Following the re-election vote, Iger took the stage for his prepared remarks concentrating on The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)’s theme parks and movie slate.
Iger has been working on the Shanghai Disney Resort for over 15 years and will see it out before his retirement as the park is set to open no later that New Year’s Eve, 2015. Renderings of the park were shown to shareholders and the public today and for the first time a Disney park will have a “Pirates”-themed land called Treasure Cove and a ride called “Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle of the Sunken Treasure.” Coincidentally, the ride that launched three films and this “new land” opened 47 years ago yesterday at Disneyland in Anaheim.
In response to a shareholder’s question, Iger stated that Disney does not have any hand-drawn animated features in the works but announced that the company was working on a third installment in its popular “Cars” franchise and that work had begun on a sequel to the 2004 hit “The Incredibles.”
Having acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion, no shareholder meeting would be complete without some mention of the upcoming “Star Wars” film, which is scheduled for released Dec. 18, 2015. Iger shared that the film, “Star Wars: Episode VII,” would feature “some very familiar faces along with a trio of new young leads.” Iger was coy about returning characters but told those in attendance that the film would feature R2-D2 and would be set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi.”