Business World

Friday 18 January 2019

Revolt over Disney chief Iger's $423m

Disney Chief Bob Iger Photo: Bloomberg
Disney Chief Bob Iger Photo: Bloomberg

Ross Kerber

Walt Disney chairman and chief executive Robert Iger stands to earn up to $423m (€344m) over four years, according to a new analysis of a compensation package rejected by shareholders, and some investors want to raise the bar on his performance targets.

Disney suffered a rare rebuke from its shareholders last week when a 52pc majority opposed the compensation of Iger and other executives in a non-binding vote that could encourage the board to tweak the pay package.

ISS Analytics, the data arm of proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services, estimated that if Iger hits maximum goals the package would make him the 12th-highest paid US CEO on an annual basis in the past 10 years.

Disney did not put a total value on Iger's pay package.

Markus Hansen, senior research analyst at Vontobel Asset Management, which had 2.4 million Disney shares at year-end, praised Iger's performance but said the firm voted against the compensation with the view the four-year pay package could be too easy to collect.

Under a contract extension through 2021 Iger could receive the full value of $100m in stock awards tied to a deal to buy film and television assets from Twenty-First Century Fox even if Disney's total shareholder returns are middle-of-the-pack versus other big companies.

While the metrics are not unusual, the feedback the board should take from the shareholder vote is that "the amount is large, so maybe a reduction in the amount and an increase in the performance targets" would be in order, Hansen said.

Jacob Williams, corporate governance manager for pension overseer Florida State Board of Administration, said it voted its 2.2 million Disney shares against the compensation on similar concerns. It also had concerns about the lack of a clear succession plan after Iger leaves.

"You hate to see a payout of that magnitude for short-term performance," Williams said. He said, however, that a reorganisation Disney announced on Wednesday had assuaged some succession concerns.

Some investors would be pleased if Iger earned the top number. Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management, said he voted 150,000 shares for Disney's compensation plan because other media companies also pay well and Iger's Fox deal looks smart.

"If he succeeds, then you pay the guy," Gerber said. Compensation consultant Brent Longnecker said the vote could spur the board to re-examine Iger's performance goals, though he did not expect major change.

"I assume they won't ignore it," Longnecker said of the vote. Asked about the pay estimate and investor concerns, a Disney spokesman referred to comments after the vote from Aylwin Lewis, chair of the company's compensation committee.

Lewis had said the board will take the vote result under advisement for future CEO compensation. Iger is "imperative" for Disney to keep as it absorbs Fox, Lewis said, with the CEO's value illustrated by a total shareholder return of 414pc during his tenure. Iger became CEO in 2005.


Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business