Activist Dan Loeb Gets Back Into Disney, Pushing It To Buy Out Comcast Hulu Stake And Sell ESPN

Published on

Loeb sold a Disney stake earlier this year, but is now encouraged by streaming industry metrics

Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) may be a victim of its own success.

The company, a recent Wall Street darling with growing profits and a rising stock price, now has activist investor Dan Loeb and his Third Point fund as investors.

And they arrived with some strong suggestions and a track record of success in bringing corporate change to companies where it invests. In this case, Loeb wants the company to buy the rest of Hulu from partner Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), investigate spinning off its ESPN sports network, and refresh its board.

Get The Full Henry Singleton Series in PDF

Get the entire 4-part series on Henry Singleton in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues

Q2 2022 hedge fund letters, conferences and more


Loeb's Letter To Disney CEO

Loeb previously owned a Disney stake that he sold earlier this year before revealing his new "significant stake" in the company in a letter to Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek. He also wants to meet with the company and discuss refreshing the board.

The Wall Street Journal reported that people familiar with the investment said Loeb owns about one percent, or about 18 million Disney shares, worth about $2.25 billion. Loeb offered an olive branch along with the campaign, praising Disney's growing subscriber base and his calls to cut costs and restructure its offerings.

"We welcome the views of all our investors," Disney said in a Tuesday statement.

News of the new investment comes days after Disney reported strong earnings for its fiscal third quarter ending July 2. It added 14.4 million subscribers to its flagship Disney+ streaming service and flexed its pricing power by announcing increases for several streaming offerings.

The Journal's sources said Loeb believes things are looking up for Disney's streaming operations and that it's reasonable to expect its flagship Disney+ to be profitable by the end of its fiscal 2024.

Specifically, Loeb wants Disney to add more digital advertising experts to its board and keep its dividend suspension, adopted during the early CVID-19 pandemic, in place.

Third Point wants Disney to add directors with digital advertising and consumer data expertise, the Journal sources said.

Loeb also urged Disney to buy Comcast's Hulu minority stake.

"We believe that it would even be prudent for Disney to pay a modest premium to accelerate the integration but are cognizant that the seller may have an unreasonable price expectation at this time," Loeb's letter said.

Disney+ has 152.1 million subscribers as of the most recent quarter. ESPN+ has 22.8 million; the company reported a 53% gain from a year earlier last week. Hulu has 46.2 million customers, up 8% from last year.

Last week, Disney said it was on track to spend $30 billion on content in its 2022 fiscal year, a slight drop from its earlier estimates of $32 billion.

Third Point had some success in 2020 with a campaign at Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) to divest some assets and make other changes. He succeeded in getting a new CEO at the chipmaker.

Article by Deanna Ritchie, Fintel