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Disney investor Nelson Peltz criticises ‘woke’ Marvel films amid fight for control of board

Disney investor Nelson Peltz criticises ‘woke’ Marvel films amid fight for control of board

Nelson Peltz, the activist investor who controls a $3.5bn stake in Disney, has criticised the company’s films for being too woke.

The 81-year-old billionaire, who is campaigning for two seats on the board of the entertainment giant, is at the centre of a power struggle with current CEO Bob Iger over the direction of the company.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the father of actress Nicola Peltz, denounced Disney’s strategy and singled out Black Panther and The Marvels productions, which featured black and women leads.

“Why do I have to have a Marvel [movie] that’s all women? Not that I have anything against women, but why do I have to do that? Why can’t I have Marvels that are both? Why do I need an all-black cast?” he said.

Peltz’s remarks comes as he vies for control of the company board amid a proxy battle with Iger, which nears showdown at the annual meeting next month.

His investment firm, Trian Partners, controls some $3.5 billion worth of Disney stock, with Peltz now seeking greater control amid Disney’s languishing share price and shrinking margins.

“[Disney] say we [Trian Partners] know nothing about the movie business – we don’t claim we do – but I don’t think they do, with five big losers in a row,” he said.

“They’ve lost first place in animation, they’ve lost first place in features... Maybe it’s time to change management in those divisions.”

In January 2023, Trian unveiled a $2.5bn stake in Disney. At the time, he criticised the company’s $71bn acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2017, which left the company saddled with debt.

Nelson Peltz pictured in Miami Beach in 2022 (Getty Images for Carbone Beach)
Nelson Peltz pictured in Miami Beach in 2022 (Getty Images for Carbone Beach)

Peltz seemed to take a step back from the proxy battle with Iger when he applauded newly unveiled plans to cut costs last year. However, in November, Peltz grew impatient with the company’s progress and relaunched his campaign for board seats.

The 2018 film Black Panther did not have an all-black cast, nor did The Marvels have an all-female cast, but both featured black and female leads, respectively.

Black Panther, starring the late actor Chadwick Boseman, was a huge success making approximately $1.35 billion at the worldwide box office, while 2023’s The Marvels failed to pull in the same popularity and made $206 million.

“People go to watch a movie or a show to be entertained,” said Peltz. “They don’t go to get a message.”

Teyonah Parris as Captain Monica Rambeau in ‘The Marvels’ (© MARVEL 2023)
Teyonah Parris as Captain Monica Rambeau in ‘The Marvels’ (© MARVEL 2023)

In the interview, Disney’s executives were quoted as saying that Peltz has not “presented a single strategic idea” to the company during two years of campaigning for board seats.

But Peltz also denied that his intentions at Disney had anything to do with firing the chief executive Iger.

The Independent has contacted Disney and Peltz’s representatives for comment.

“Disney is stupid because I’m not trying to fire [chief executive] Bob Iger, I want to help him,” he said. “We don’t fire CEOs.”

He later said in the interview of Iger: “We’re not there to fight. We’re there to help him.”