Disney adds new board member in deal with activist Daniel Loeb

Disney has added media veteran Carolyn Everson to its board of directors as part of an agreement with Daniel Loeb’s Third Point just weeks after the activist investor abandoned his push for a spin-off of ESPN.

The Burbank, California-based group on Friday said Third Point had approved Everson’s appointment and entered into a deal where the hedge fund agreed not to buy more than 2 per cent of Disney’s outstanding shares or nominate new directors. The agreement will be in place until the company’s annual shareholder meeting in 2024.

Third Point disclosed a $1bn stake in Disney last month and called for sweeping changes at the company, including a spin-off of the ESPN sports television network. However, Loeb retreated from that recommendation after Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, told the Financial Times he planned to keep the business.

Chapek also said in the interview it was unlikely Disney could act on Loeb’s suggestion to purchase Comcast’s 33 per cent stake in the Hulu streaming service before January 2024, when it has the option to purchase the remaining shares. “We would love to do sooner but it takes two to tango,” Chapek said. “You need the participation of both the seller and the buyer.”

However, Chapek left the door open to Loeb’s suggestion of making changes to the board. While he defended the board’s “broad range of skillsets”, he said Disney is “so consistent with Dan’s thinking that everything he’s talked about are either things we have considered in the past or are considering for the future”.

Loeb has also pushed for aggressive cost-cutting measures at the group, which has invested heavily on expanding its streaming business.

Disney shares rose after Loeb revealed his latest investment in the company on August 15, but the stock has fallen 24 per cent since then. The shares have underperformed the broader market this year amid investor concerns about the prospects for future growth in the streaming video market.

Chapek said in a statement on Friday: “We have a productive and collegial relationship with Third Point, with whom we share a deep commitment to continue building on Disney’s many successes and increasing shareholder value.”

Everson co-founded Pets.com, one of the biggest casualties of the dotcom bust, before moving on to stints in ads sales at Walt Disney Imagineering, Viacom and Microsoft in the early 2000s.

Between 2011 and 2021, she played an instrumental role in building Meta-owned Facebook’s advertising business together with Sheryl Sandberg as its vice-president of global marketing solutions.

Despite being beloved by marketers, she left Facebook abruptly last year after she missed out on a promotion to chief business officer, which instead went to partnerships chief Marne Levine.

Everson then joined Instacart as president but left the grocery delivery app after just three months. Media reports at the time claimed she clashed with the leadership there over the scope of her role. Everson also sits on the board of Coca-Cola.

She will join Disney’s board effective November 21.

Additional reporting by Steff Chávez in New York