Disney CEO Iger expected to talk turnaround plan Wednesday

Disney CEO Iger expected to talk turnaround plan Wednesday

Walt Disney Co CEO Bob Iger is expected to talk about a turnaround plan on Wednesday, when the media company delivers its first quarterly results since the return of the executive who built the modern incarnation of Disney.

According to employees and company observers, investors expect Iger to articulate a new vision for the company he built and ran for 15 years as anxiety sweeps across the ranks and file at the entertainment conglomerate.

Bob Iger is presenting for the first time in public. Jessica Reif Ehrlich, a Bank of America analyst, said everyone is listening. Disney and Iger are under pressure from the activist investor Nelson Peltz, chief executive of Trian Fund Management, who has launched a proxy battle to place him on the board. He accused the company of underperforming financially despite its global scale and collection of powerful entertainment brands.

In a Feb. 2 letter, the company urged shareholders to reject Peltz's bid, noting that the board has the right combination of experience, skills and perspective to guide Disney through an unprecedented period of change. It also endorsed Iger's leadership, saying that Disney generated a shareholder return of 554% under his previous tenure as CEO.

Iger announced plans to restore decision-making power to the company's creative executives after returning as CEO in November. The move resulted in the departure of Kareem Daniel, head of the Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution group created by Iger's predecessor, Bob Chapek, to consolidate budgeting and distribution of the studio's content.

Even senior executives don't know what's going to happen in Disney's famously tight-lipped culture. The restructuring is taking place at the highest level of the company, involving general entertainment chief Dana Walden, film chairman Alan Bergman, ESPN's Jimmy Pitaro and Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy.

Wall Street is waiting for Iger's assessment of Disney's streaming business, which he launched with the 2017 announcement that the company would form its own direct-to- consumer service. In fiscal 2024, Disney expects to reach profitability through its direct-to- consumer service.

Wall Street is attracted to Disney's long-time cash cow, ESPN. Michael Nathanson, a media analyst at SVB MoffettNathanson, said I'm not expecting numbers to be changed, but I'm expecting thoughtful conversations that are honest about these businesses.

Wall Street analysts expect first quarter earnings of 78 cents a share, down from $1.06 a year ago, on revenue of $23.37 billion, up from $21.8 billion a year ago.