Happiest shareholders on Earth

first_imgAfter years of bouncing around the country to hold shareholders meetings, The Walt Disney Co. will stage its first annual gathering under the leadership of CEO Robert Iger in the shadow of its flagship theme park, Disneyland. Today’s meeting in Anaheim will be the first time Iger has faced shareholders as chief executive since taking over last October from longtime CEO Michael Eisner. The gathering is shaping up as a routine affair, a calm counterpoint to the tumultuous period since a 2004 shareholders revolt in Philadelphia that marked the beginning of the end of Eisner’s 21-year reign. Disney’s stock price has soared 18 percent since Iger took charge and was trading at around $28 a share on Thursday. Analysts and investors have generally praised his handling of the company, especially the planned $7.4 billion purchase of Pixar Animation Studios, a move designed to shore up Disney’s flagging animated film efforts. Pixar CEO Steve Jobs will become a member of Disney’s board once the deal is completed later this year. “As a shareholder, I’ve been pleased with the performance,” said Janna Sampson, director of portfolio management for Oakbrook Investments, which holds Disney shares. Sampson said Iger has strengthened Disney’s historic roots in animation while embracing new technologies that will change the way its films and TV shows are consumed by the public. Disney was the first company to sell episodes of its hit TV shows on Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Internet store. Iger has also said the company is questioning traditional ways of releasing movies and DVDs with an eye toward making offerings available to consumers earlier and for viewing on a wider variety of devices. “You’ve got to be forward-thinking to stay ahead of the game,” Sampson said. Disney still faces challenges, including the crucial choice of a new company chairman. Current Chairman George Mitchell had said 2005 would be his last year but agreed to seek re-election to the board today for one more yearlong term to smooth Iger’s transition and help lead the search for a replacement to head the board. That decision has caused one proxy adviser to recommend to its clients they withhold their votes from Mitchell. Glass Lewis & Co. has challenged Mitchell’s independence because of his past business dealings with Disney and also challenged the thoroughness of the process used to hire a new CEO. The company did praise Iger’s management so far and recommended that investors support Iger’s election to the board. Another major proxy adviser firm, Institutional Shareholder Services, has recommended Mitchell’s re-election. “They do have to resolve some issues eventually, including who’s going to be the chairman and for how long,” media analyst Harold Vogel said. “There has to be some kind of indication of what their long-range plans might be with regard to international expansion of theme parks. They’ll also have to indicate what the approach will be to new distribution technologies.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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