The Walt Disney Company has done it again. CEO Bob Iger and his corporate cast members got their creative people involved with Disney’s 2023 virtual shareholder meeting. This year’s Disney VSM was another crowd pleaser and fit nicely into the celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the company and 50th year anniversary of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. VSM attendees were treated to footage of the brand new Tron: Lightcycle Run ride at Disney World, a never-before-seen extended trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3, and a special appearance by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to announce the upcoming live-action remake of Moana. For the second consecutive year, Disney put in the effort to make its VSM exciting. It definitely got me pumped up for some of the fun experiences I’m going to have with my family in the months to come.
I’m not going to walk you through the entire meeting like I did last year because others have done it for me! Yes, Disney super fans are now watching their beloved company’s VSMs and writing up their own summaries. Here are few:
What Just Happened at the Disney 2023 Shareholder Meeting? (MickeyBlog.com)
Takeaways from Disney’s Annual Shareholders Meeting 2023 (Boardwalk Times)
The Perfect Answer
What I want to highlight comes from the Q&A session. Iger gave the best response I’ve ever heard from a CEO to the question of whether and when corporations should take stances on social/political issues. His answer was absolute perfection. (Of course I’m biased because I agree with him!) Here are the Q&A:
Shareholder: Good morning Bob, and thank you for coming back after a successful retirement. It's a painful task I'm sure, and I know that you do it for love of the company, not for money. Regarding the last question brought up, I just disagree that Disney has an obligation to take political positions that are detrimental to the overall company… My comment is, is it wise for the company to take political positions to satisfy a very small portion of the people when our primary mission is entertainment, not education.
Iger: OK, well Raymond, first of all, I respect your position on this and appreciate your question, and I would like to address that. Look, first of all, as the CEO of the company, I think my job is to strive to do what I think is best for our business, and that includes doing what's best for our cast members--our employees--and what will enable both to flourish. I don't think we should or can weigh in on every issue, and I also understand there are going to be gray areas. There are going to times when we decide to weigh in on an issue that we believe is worthy of debate because of its relevance and importance to our business or to our employees. And there are there are times when I actually believe we shouldn't. But, I strongly feel that we alone have to determine whether, when or how to weigh in on a on an issue, whether it's private or public, of course with the standard that, when we take a position on those matters, there's a true reason why we have. And in almost all cases, it has to be because it directly affects our business or our people. And I think if you look back, for decades corporate America has expressed themselves on numerous issues, both right and wrong. And our country, I think, is better off for that. And this was evident during the Civil Rights Era, as I recall as a child, when a lot of companies weighed in on injustices that they saw in America. It was certainly true during World War II when those that stood in silence in some ways still carry the stain of indifference. So, as long as I'm in the job, I'm going to continue to be guided by a sense of decency and respect and trust our instincts that when we do weigh in, we weigh in because the issue is truly relevant to our business and to the people that work for us. Thank you.
I think that was an amazing and respectful answer to a very legitimate question. That shareholder referenced the previous question, the answer to which received some coverage in the media, but only the very last part of it. Here are the full question and Iger’s full answer (which I also agree with):
Shareholder: Hi, Bob. And again, I reiterate, welcome back. As a financial advisor [from Ameriprise Financial] here in Melbourne, Florida, only about an hour from Walt Disney World, what steps have already been taken, or will be taken, to protect shareholder value with regard to the legal battle between Disney and Ron DeSantis and the Reedy Creek Improvement District where we’re kind of all concerned about that here for tax purposes? My son lives in Orlando, and he's worried about his taxes going up.
Iger: Alan, if you don't mind, let me address this issue, which I haven't really done much publicly, but I'd love the opportunity just to put it all in perspective. First of all, I think you said you were a resident of Melbourne, Florida. We love the state of Florida, and I think that's reflected in not only how much we've invested over the last 50 years, but how which we've given back in the form of jobs and community service, taxes, which you brought up, tourism of course, and all sorts of other responsible business practices. We've also always respected and appreciated what the state has done for us. It's kind of been a two-way street. But, a year ago the company took a position on pending Florida legislation. And while the company may have not handled the position that it took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech, just like individuals do. And obviously, in taking the position, the governor got very angry about the position Disney took. And it seems like he's decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business, in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me, against any company or individual, but particularly against the company that means so much to the state that you live in. If you put that in perspective, we have over 75 thousand employees, which I noted in my opening. Countless thousands of indirect jobs have been created. About 15 million visitors will go through our gates this year alone, about eight million of them from outside the US. And we are the largest taxpayer in the state. And you may find this interesting as it relates to future taxes, but we're currently planning now to invest over $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next 10 years. And those investments, we estimate, will create 13 thousand new Disney jobs and thousands of other indirect jobs. And they'll also attract more people to the state and generate more taxes. And so our point on this is that any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida. And I'll just leave it at that. Thank you very much for your interest.