The Walt Disney Co. honcho Robert Iger’s first annual shareholders’ meeting as CEO went as expected, with investors toning down considerably the vitriol of recent gatherings.
The meeting -- held at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif., and Webcast over the Internet -- lasted about two-and-a-half hours and was a marked change from Disney’s 2004 annual meeting in Philadelphia, when shareholders called for then-CEO Michael Eisner’s head.
As a result of that 2004 meeting, Eisner stepped down as chairman of the company and, six months later, announced that he would retire when his contract expired in September 2006. He ended up leaving earlier, passing off the CEO role to Iger Oct. 1, 2005.
Also in Iger’s favor: Disney stock has risen 15.5% since the beginning of the year, the ABC broadcast network has vaulted from fourth place to first on the strength of several hit shows and the media giant has resolved its issues with Pixar Animation Studios Inc. by agreeing to buy the studio for $7.4 billion.
Investors for the most part limited their questions to theme-park issues -- many were concerned about the possible expansion of Disneyland in Anaheim, but Iger said there are no plans to expand the park -- and to health-benefit issues for employees at Anaheim Disneyland.
In his opening remarks, Iger stressed Disney’s emphasis on creativity and innovation and pointed to its pending acquisition of Pixar as an example. That deal is expected to close in April or May. He also reiterated Disney’s pledge to deliver double-digit earnings growth on average “through at least 2008.”
On the innovation front, Iger reiterated Disney’s plans for My ABC, a feature on ABC’s Web site (abc.go.com) that would allow consumers to download past episodes of ABC hit Lost free-of-charge as long as they were willing to view advertisements. Advertising-free episodes of the ABC show are still available for a fee. Iger said My ABC will launch in about two months.
Disney also plans to revamp its Disney.com Web site (disney.go.com), allowing users to view content like Disney Channel movie High School Musical, to play interactive games and to plan their vacations at Disney theme parks.
“The new Disney online destination will offer rich selections of engaging content and family-focused community features, as well as easy-to-use online shopping,” Iger said. “While some of these features are available today, this enhanced Disney online destination will offer a consumer the ability to access our content in a faster, more convenient and more compelling way.”