Third Point Partners’ Dan Loeb has written to Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek suggesting the company spinoff sports broadcaster ESPN, among other changes.
In a Monday letter posted on Third Point’s website, Loeb wrote that his fund had filed for clearance to engage with the board about opportunities to enhance shareholder value, “since the company will likely require additional strategic, capital allocation, and governance changes to ensure its success.”
In response, Disney said it “welcome[d] the views of all our investors” but added that it continued to deliver “strong financial results.”
Chief among the suggestions Third Point will be pushing are a separation of ESPN to alleviate leverage at the parent company, a full integration of Hulu – the streaming company part-owned with NBCUniversal, cost-cutting, and a board refreshment.
The activist said it did not want to highlight any existing directors but had identified new candidates it believed would add skillsets underrepresented at present.
“Our independent and experienced board has significant expertise in branded, consumer-facing and technology businesses as well as talent-driven enterprises,” Disney said in response. “The board has also benefited from continuous refreshment with an average tenure of four years.”
Shares in Disney rose 2.5% on Monday after Loeb’s letter was released, while the S&P 500 rose 0.3%.
The company is familiar with Loeb’s style of activism, who in 2020 counseled the company not to reverse a pandemic-related cut to its dividend in favor of more investment in its subscription-based streaming service Disney+. Loeb repeated that demand on Monday, saying debt-reduction, repurchases, or investment would be a better use of cash.