Drama Continues at the Tragic Kingdom as Disney Heiress Is Targeting CEO Bob Chapek

(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

Amid all the other concerns, now an upper-level battle might be brewing in the executive offices at Disney.

It has been a challenging year already for Hollywood’s biggest studio. Disney had been contending with emerging from the pandemic, grappling with releases in theaters and/or its streaming service, and then the self-created issues began. Under pressure, CEO Bob Chapek entered the social debate surrounding the Florida parental rights in education bill, and things only spiraled from there.


Chapek managed to upset those on both sides of the issue; proponents balked at his opposition, and his gay workers and activists felt he acted too late and too tepidly. It became a PR fiasco for the company, leading to the public (which polls showed supporting the law) turning on Disney, and the state looking to rescind some of the special privileges the company enjoys in Florida. Add to this the severe underperformance of the new release “Lightyear.” It appears the inclusion of a lesbian kissing scene has repelled many families, leading to depressed box office returns.

All of this has added up to the company stock trending at 52-week lows for some time and it is fast approaching having lost half its value since September. This reality has caused a stir, as now a significant voice has raised concerns about Chapek’s future. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter to the namesake of the company, has risen up to begin an effort to target the company head. 

AP/Reuters Feed Library

At The Wrap, they report that Abigail is courting a number of top investors in the company, looking for enough support to begin stripping Chapek of his monumental payout plan. The idea is to scale back his salary and/or his bonus payouts.

The heiress has spent the last three months quietly courting institutional investors to support a shareholder-backed salvo against Chapek at next year’s annual meeting, multiple insiders told TheWrap. The entertainment giant has been under fire for doubling Chapek’s annual compensation to $32.5 million in 2021 amid a slew of corporate fumbles 

The brewing proxy fight marks a major escalation in her relentless criticism of the company, injecting a dramatic flair to Hollywood’s reputation of lavishly rewarding top executives at the expense of rank-and-file workers.


On the surface, this is not a new effort. Abigail, who is a documentary filmmaker, has in the past spoken out firmly about what she deems to be outrageous CEO salaries. But this latest salvo targets a man who is currently under fire for basically supporting an agenda Abigail herself was promoting months ago. Many of the current issues the company is facing are a direct result of the battle over the Florida law, and Ms. Disney had been an outspoken opponent.

In April, I covered a lengthy rant she delivered on Twitter, an imbalanced reaction to the criticisms the Disney Company was facing, and challenges coming from Florida politicians. Shortly after that, Ms. Disney appeared on Reliable Sources, and further made points about the law and the company.

“These GOP media stars can claim they’re just protecting kids,” Stelter said. “But they are also demonizing gay teachers and condemning inclusive Disney shows. If you can create this idea that somebody’s in there trying to indoctrinate your child, the paranoid imagination can run circles.”

The Florida law does no such thing. It merely was a measure of what type of content is age-appropriate for the youngest students – not unlike a movie studio placing ratings on its programming. Then Abigail made another wildly inaccurate comment to Brian Stelter.


“This attack against Disney was so timed and rolled out so strategically that it was really hard for me to imagine that it didn’t come from a series of decisions that got made in the background,”

This was not in any way an attack on Disney. The company elected to enter this particular culture siege. The law concerns curriculum standards based on age; there was no involvement with the company or its operations, in any fashion. The only attack seen was a backlash, after Chapek pledged Disney would fight against the law – something Abigail and many others compelled him to undertake.

What has Abigail and others within the company so concerned is they had no foresight that their actions would create a negative reaction. Chapek’s strong comments went against the position of Florida residents and voters. Polls have repeatedly shown support for the law, and Disney’s vocal opposition defied the wishes of many parents — the core customer base of the company. This was reflected in the poor performance of the recent motion picture.

AP/Reuters Feed Library

As part of his appeasement to the gay employees complaining about corporate inaction, Chapek changed course on a previous decision about “Lightyear.” He told Pixar they could reinsert the lesbian kissing scene previously expunged, and this led to a diminished return in theaters. The movie opened about -30% below projections last weekend and is sure to become a money-losing release for the studio.


Abigail Disney now appears to be lashing out, looking to bring accountability for the company absorbing losses in both value and public opinion. She seems intent on holding Bob Chapek accountable for enacting the very policies she had been promoting.


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