Connecticut Treasurer Criticizes Disney CEO Bob Iger's Added Chairman Role

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Current chairman John Pepper says criticism, which has also been raised by an investor advisor, "utterly disregards both the company's record of financial performance and that nine out of the 10 directors will be independent.

NEW YORK - The state treasurer of Connecticut, whose public pension fund is a Walt Disney Co. shareholder, has joined the ranks of critics speaking out against the entertainment company's board for giving CEO Bob Iger the added title of chairman, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The treasurer, Denise Nappier, suggested that Disney shareholders vote against the re-election of members of the board's governance committee at Disney's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, the paper said. Investor advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services made a similar recommendation last week, which drew a sharp rebuke from Disney.

Corporate governance experts prefer a separation of the chairman and CEO roles. Iger's predecessor Michael Eisner also drew criticism for his dual role, which led the entertainment giant to have an independent chairman, "unless the board concludes that the best interest of shareholders would be otherwise better served," according to its governance guidelines.

Addressing the Connecticut treasurer's criticism, Disney chairman John Pepper said the conglomerate's board "strongly disagrees with Ms. Nappier's position," according to the Journal. He added that her position "utterly disregards both the company's record of financial performance and that nine out of the 10 directors will be independent, including an independent lead director with duties and responsibilities that exceed in scope those recommended by governance advisors."

Iger is scheduled to take on the additional chairman role as of Tuesday's meeting, but has also said he plans to step down as CEO in 2015, wile remaining executive chairman until 2016.

Nappier called the plan "a regressive policy that could impair the board's role to oversee executive management on behalf of shareholders," the Journal said.

The Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds hold more than 642,000 Disney shares, which are worth approximately $27 million, the Journal said, citing the treasurer's office.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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