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by 09.23.2022

Without even criticizing content directly, Disney is called out by anti-woke investor Vivek Ramaswamy in a detailed letter to Bob Chapek. He points out how Disney is operating recklessly without considering how the moves they make to support radical political agendas hurt the stock price and the brands, and how there is no justifiable reason to hijack the company for political purposes. This is how people like Bob Chapek can be forced to change.

Strive Asset Management Letter to DISNEY

Prominent Anti-ESG Disney Investor Calls On Company To “Commit To Political Neutrality” Before They’re “Expected To Take Sides That Won’t Be Favorable”



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Over the last year, the Walt Disney Company’s public approval rating plummeted from 77% to 33%, an unprecedented collapse following Disney’s public embrace of controversial political positions in deference to social activists.

Strive Asset Management recently became a shareholder of Disney. On behalf of our clients, we write to ask your board a fundamental question: how do Disney’s politicized behaviors advance the economic interests of Disney’s stockholders? We believe they do not, and we respectfully suggest that Disney rectify its missteps ahead of next spring’s proxy voting season.

Disney Is A Beloved American Brand

There is perhaps no more iconic and beloved American company than the Walt Disney Company. Today, Disney’s mission is “to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.” It was once much shorter: “Make people happy.” And until recently, Disney has largely stayed true to both.

If Disney can avoid being conscripted into political warfare, we believe the company is well positioned for growth. Post-COVID demand for Disney’s parks and entertainment remains strong. In the third quarter, Disney reported that Disney+ subscriptions rose to 152.1 million, adding 14.4 million new subscribers and beating its 147 million forecast. Sales at the parks similarly rose to $7.4 billion for the quarter, up 70% from this time last year. Overall, Disney beat its earnings estimate by $496 million. Investors have taken note: last month, activist investor Dan Loeb’s Third Point LLC bought a substantial new stake in the company, suggesting he believes Disney is undervalued.

Over the past year, Disney has become embroiled in political controversies that have unquestionably damaged Disney’s brand. We ask a simple question: what risk-reward calculus justifies taking controversial political positions that risk derailing Disney’s otherwise strong economic prospects by alienating a majority of your customer base?

Case Study: Disney’s Response to Florida’s Parental Rights In Education Bill

Disney’s recent response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill provides an instructive example of how your politicized behaviors have harmed the company’s business interests.

Earlier this year, the Florida legislature introduced a bill to “reinforce the fundamental rights of parents” by, among other things, disallowing “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3.” Over two-thirds of Americans support such a bill, including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats.

A small but vocal minority of Disney employees opposed the bill and asked their employer to do the same, as is their right. Disney’s leadership wisely declined, explaining in a company-wide email:

As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.

We applaud Disney’s initial business decision to remain neutral. As commentators have explained, “a CEO’s decision [to wade into politics] can easily break down civility within a company, alienate a customer base, and generate concerns from shareholders whose ownership stake is being used to trample on their core values.” Likewise, polling shows that while 29% of investors believe it is a “good thing” for companies to leverage their financial power for political or social means, twice as many – 58% – say it is not.

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