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Disney heiress calls CEO Bob Iger’s $65.6-million pay package ‘insane’

BWEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. - OCT. 15, 2015. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney Company co-foun
Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Walt Disney Co. co-founder Roy O. Disney sharply rebuked the most recent pay package for CEO Bob Iger.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger’s compensation has a major critic who shares the founder’s name.

Philanthropist and documentarian Abigail Disney, who is grandniece of Walt Disney and granddaughter of co-founder Roy O. Disney, sharply rebuked Iger’s most recent pay package as “insane,” both at an event last week hosted by the publication Fast Company and in a thread of tweets she posted Sunday.

The heiress, who is not involved with Burbank-based Disney’s business and owns a small number of shares, described Iger’s compensation as an example of companies giving lavish rewards to top executives instead of improving the lot of lower-wage workers, including theme park workers.

The New York resident cited a recent Equilar study that said Iger’s $65.6-million compensation in fiscal 2018 was more than 1,400 times that of the median Disney employee. Iger’s pay jumped 80% in the most recent fiscal year, largely because of stock awards tied to his 2017 contract extension.

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“Let me [be] very clear,” she tweeted. “I like Bob Iger. I do NOT speak for my family but only for myself. Other than owning shares (not that many) I have no more say in what happens there than anyone else. But by any objective measure a pay ratio [of] over a thousand is insane.”

A Disney spokesman disputed the notion that Disney overcompensates Iger at the expense of its workers.

The company said in a statement that it has made “historic investments” to benefit its employees by setting a starting hourly wage of $15 at Disneyland that is double the federal minimum wage, and by committing up to $150 million for an education initiative for hourly workers to earn a college or vocational degree free of charge.

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“Mr. Iger’s compensation is 90% performance-based and he has delivered exceptional value for shareholders,” the statement added. “Disney’s market capitalization has grown exponentially over the last decade, rising $75 billion in the last month alone.”

Disney’s stock soared to record heights this month after the company wowed analysts with a preview of its upcoming streaming service Disney+, for which it will charge $6.99 a month starting in November. The company recently completed its $71.3-billion purchase of 21st Century Fox in a move to bolster its streaming ambitions.

The stock price has increased to $132 a share from $24 a share when Iger became CEO in 2005, the company said. The shares declined 77 cents, or 0.6%, to $131.68 on Monday.

Nonetheless, Iger’s compensation has been a flashpoint in recent years.

The company earlier this year cut $13.5 million from the executive’s annual target pay package to $35 million, partly in response to investor blowback.

Shareholders narrowly approved the revised pay package in March, voting 57% in favor, a year after shareholders voted 52% against his compensation plan in a nonbinding resolution that was seen as a stern rebuke to the firm.

In December, the company increased the performance bar it must hit for Iger to collect more than $100 million in incentives he could earn as a result of the Fox acquisition.

Disney is investing heavily in expansions at its U.S. theme parks. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, an ambitious 14-acre project, will open at Disneyland in two stages this year. An identical planned attraction will also open at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

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Abigail Disney has previously been outspoken about social justice issues and has been a supporter of the #MeToo movement. She and production company Killer Content launched the female-fronted entertainment firm Level Forward after a failed effort to buy the assets of Weinstein Co.

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

@rfaughnder


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