11 Mar 2009 Disney CEO Drops F-Bomb at Shareholder Meeting
Washington, DC – Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger scowled at and said “f— you” to Tom Borelli, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project, at Tuesday’s annual Disney shareholder meeting.
Iger’s remark came after Borelli told Disney shareholders about Iger’s refusal to sell the DVD or the distribution rights of the miniseries “The Path to 9/11.”
Borelli had just ended his presentation and was attempting to shake Iger’s hand on his way back to his seat. Iger, who was sitting in the audience at the time, also refused to uncross his arms and shake Borelli’s hand. Borelli, who had received applause from fellow shareholders after his presentation, went back to the podium and precisely reported to his fellow shareholders what Iger had just said, to gasps from the assembled crowd. Borelli then sat back down.
“The Path to 9/11” is a miniseries based on the federal “9/11 Commission Report.” The miniseries aired in 2006 on the Disney-owned ABC television network. The shareholder meeting was held at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California.
“So much for the family-friendly Disney reputation,” said Borelli. “Shareholders have a legitimate concern about the political and financial implications of Iger’s actions. It wasn’t until today that the depths of his contempt were revealed.”
Borelli, who was attending the meeting on behalf of the Free Enterprise Action Fund, a mutual fund with which he is affiliated, registered a shareholder proposal asking the company to be more transparent about the company’s political donations due to concerns about Iger possibly using the company’s assets to advance Iger’s personal political agenda. Borelli cited Disney’s refusal to sell the DVD or its rights to “The Path to 9/11” miniseries as evidence of iger’s bias. Iger is a long-time donor to liberal politicians and the miniseries was thought to be embarrassing to officials who served in the Clinton Administration. Withholding distribution of the DVD for personal political reasons would be a conflict with shareholder interests.
In his statement he made at the shareholder meeting, Borelli said:
Unfortunately, because CEO Bob Iger is putting politics before profits – shareholders are being denied an opportunity to benefit from DVD sales of the ABC-TV miniseries “The Path to 9/11.”
Since its broadcast in September 2006 – Iger has refused to profit from this project – despite its significant market potential.
“The Path to 9/11” received seven Emmy nominations, had 25 million views over two nights and it was highly ranked in Nielsen ratings – the first night it was number-two and on the second night it was the number-one – the most-watched TV program in the country.
Clearly, “The Path to 9/11” is a valuable asset!
Not only has Iger decided that Disney will not to sell the DVD – he will not allow the sale of its distribution rights. Lions Gate was told the distribution rights were not available, and Disney has ignored repeated attempts by our company to negotiate the purchase of the miniseries distribution rights.
This is the second year in a row that Borelli has pressed Iger and Disney to release “The Path to 9/11” on DVD. Borelli has offered to negotiate to purchase the rights to the miniseries in three letters to Iger and the Disney board of directors. Disney has never replied.
The Free Enterprise Action Fund’s shareholder proposal for more transparency with regard to the company’s political contributions received 24 percent support.
Borelli added: “Disney truly can say it’s putting people before profits – in this case, it’s Bill and Hillary Clinton. Lions Gate inquired about buying the rights to ‘The Path to 9/11’ and was rebuffed… It’s a shame that Disney is allowing these profits to slip away at a time when Disney is laying off employees.”
Disney has said webcast of the meeting will be made available at http://corporate.disney.go.com.