4 things to watch as Disney shareholders gather in Denver for annual meeting

Walt Disney Co.'s headquarters are seen in Burbank.
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

When the Walt Disney Co. holds its annual shareholders’ meeting in Denver on Wednesday, investors will be asked to elect 11 members of the company’s board of directors and consider two shareholder proposals.

But there’s more to the meeting than the official business.

In recent years, the shareholder gatherings have been used by Burbank-based Disney to reveal information about upcoming projects, including announcements about new movies and theme park attractions.

Here’s a look at potential story lines as investors gather at the Colorado Convention Center:


What will shareholders ask during the Q&A?

The scripted portion of Disney’s annual meeting is always meticulously arranged and executed. But the question-and-answer session, which is led by Chief Executive and Chairman Robert Iger, often manages to produce a few awkward — and illuminating — moments.

Last year, Iger fielded questions from shareholders about the health of Disney’s key television business, ESPN in particular. There were lighthearted moments, too, such as a query from a child about Pixar Animation Studios’ refusal to give tours.

This year, the questions from shareholders could be weighty.

Iger could be asked about the prospect of his remaining at Disney after his contract expires in June 2018. There is a growing expectation inside and outside the company that its board will extend Iger’s contract while it continues to search for his replacement.

He also could be asked about his position on President Trump’s business policy forum. Iger missed the first meeting of the group, held in early in February, because of a scheduling conflict. A Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton, Iger is the lone entertainment executive on the panel, which is called the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

Will there be news from Disney’s parks and resorts unit?

Last year, Disney used the shareholders’ meeting to announce it was adding two new ships to the Disney Cruise Line’s fleet and revealed it would begin construction of “Star Wars” land at Disneyland in April 2016.

So, there could be an announcement or two regarding the company’s mainstay parks and resorts business — which could use some good news.


The meeting comes as the division has experienced an up-and-down run as of late. Although the unit reported a 13% increase in operating income for the fiscal first quarter, properties in France and Hong Kong have issues.

Disney announced plans last month to buy out all other shareholders of Euro Disney and invest $1.6 billion in the French resort. The bailout is the second in three years for the European theme park, which has reported weak financial results against a backdrop of terrorism fears.

Also last month, Hong Kong Disneyland reported a second consecutive annual loss on an 11% decline in attendance and a 7% drop in revenue. The decline was attributed in part to a weakening tourism market. The new Shanghai Disneyland, however, has been successful, drawing more than 7 million people since its opening in June.

Could shareholders get some ‘Star Wars’ news?

If recent annual meetings are any indication, there could be news on the “Star Wars” front.

In 2015, for example, Disney revealed details about two planned “Star Wars” films — including the title of the first stand-alone movie in the series, 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

With “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” scheduled for release Dec. 15, Disney could use the meeting to share details about the highly anticipated picture.


What about those shareholder proposals?

In the first of two proposals, which is scheduled to be presented by Zevin Asset Management on behalf of several shareholders, investors will vote on whether Disney should produce an annual report on its lobbying efforts.

Disney’s board has urged a vote against the proposal, noting that the company already discloses information about its lobbying activities with the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and other entities as required by law.

In the second measure, shareholders will vote on whether to expand Disney’s proxy access bylaw in order to increase the number of allowed shareholder nominee directors, remove limits on the number of shareholders that can form a nominating group and remove the limitation on the re-nomination of shareholder nominees.

Disney’s board opposes the proposal, arguing that the company’s current proxy access bylaw, adopted and revised last year, adheres to the “best practices” of other U.S. companies with proxy access rights.

Times staff writer Hugo Martin contributed to this report.


Twitter: @DanielNMiller