Iger keeping options open for ABC
Disney CEO doesn't dismiss idea of selling the networkAt Disney’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, CEO Bob Iger faced off with disappointed “cast members” over health benefits, didn’t dismiss the idea of selling ABC, announced a new ride and rebuked one of the company’s classic animated films.
Calling the movie “antiquated” and “fairly offensive,” Iger said there are no plans for releasing “Song of the South” on DVD.
“Thank you for not disappointing me,” Iger said Wednesday after an attendee of the meeting in San Antonio asked about the 1946 film. It has become something of a tradition that someone will ask about “Song of the South” at a Disney shareholders meeting, though Iger’s negative response this year seemed more firm than in the past.
As for ABC, Iger was responding to a questioner who suggested that the network, or at least ABC News, might be more valuable to someone else than it is to Disney.
“There are no guarantees in terms of what will remain part of our company and what will not,” Iger said.
But the early part of the Q&A portion of the meeting was dominated by Disneyland Resort hotel workers from California, who are among some of the 2,100 union employees upset about declining health benefits.
The first of three workers to address Iger said he would pray that “God touches his heart.” Another one said Iger’s salary is 1,395 times that of a hotel housekeeper and asked why top execs get fat bonuses while other cast members get “takeaways.”
Iger demurred, citing instructions from a federal mediator not to discuss the matter in public.
Explaining why Fastpass isn’t available on rides for young children, Iger let it slip that Disney is building another Dumbo ride at Florida’s Fantasyland, alongside the existing one. “I probably just made big news for die-hard Disney fans,” he said.
He also announced a new $700 annual pass for unlimited access to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.
Shareholders voted down a “say on pay” initiative, though a supporter asked that execs make sure the outcome coincided with SEC guidelines stipulating how votes should be counted.
Disney also elected a 13th director, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook.
Additionally, shareholders rejected a proposal to expand its nondiscrimination policy to include “formerly gay” employees. Representing a group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, a shareholder claimed formerly gay men and women who reject homosexuality are “ridiculed,” “closeted,” “not welcome” and “belittled.”
Disney’s board has said such an expansion of its policy isn’t needed, given that it already warns against harassment for any reason.
Iger also reiterated a commitment to use Disney’s media empire “to teach and inspire young and old alike to care for the planet we all share.”