James Gorman talks Disney succession, proxy fight as he gears up to join board

James Gorman to help Disney in succession struggle

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said Thursday that he’s gearing up to join a succession planning committee at Disney, which will advise the board on choosing CEO Bob Iger’s successor.

Gorman is set to step down as Morgan Stanley CEO Jan. 1. He will join Disney’s board in February.

Disney announced last month that Gorman was joining the company’s board. The announcement also included the appointment of former Sky TV boss Jeremy Darroch, beginning in January.

The move was seen as a way to hold off a proxy fight by activist fund Trian and its chief, Nelson Peltz, although Trian voiced dissatisfaction with the appointments in a statement. Trian said it would push for Peltz and former Disney executive Jay Rasulo to join the board.

Gorman has won praise for how he managed the succession process at Morgan Stanley.

“Disney is forming a succession committee, which I’ll be joining,” Gorman told CNBC’s David Faber. “I don’t start as a director until February.” He added: “But I have an enormous amount of experience having run succession here on Morgan Stanley’s board.”

Gorman also noted that he’s dealt with activist investors before. “We have had a lot of battles in my life,” he said of the Disney proxy fight. “That doesn’t bother me one little bit.”

Disney said Gorman was referring to the succession committee the company announced in January. The company disclosed Gorman would join the panel in a securities filing last month.

Disney re-appointed Iger as CEO in November 2022, following the tumultuous tenure of his hand-picked successor Bob Chapek. Before he ended his previous reign as CEO, Iger renewed his contract multiple times. In July, the company extended Iger’s contract through 2026.

The company has faced a number headwinds in recent years, including box office flops and streaming losses. Earlier this year, Iger reorganized the company, laying off 7,000 employees while looking to cut $7.5 billion in costs.

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