Sources tell Deadline that the Disney layoffs are expected to start sometime within the next two weeks. It’s not known how many jobs are affected or which departments will see the greatest job losses. The news follows yesterday’s announcement that Disney-owned LucasArts was discontinuing production in its video games division.
UPDATE 7:10 PM: Walt Disney Co today registered with the SEC that George Lucas now has a $2.02 billion stake in the company in conjunction with the $4.1B cash and stock acquisition of LucasFilm in December. Lucas now owns 37.1 million Disney shares or 2.1% of the entertainment giant. This registration form is standard stuff and what companies must file when there’s a new offering of securities that may become available to the public. (In this case, Lucas’ stock.) But Bloomberg overreacted and at first incorrectly reported that the Star Wars creator was planning on selling all those shares. Both LucasFilm’s and Disney’s spokespeople immediately denied the report. (I hear one especially exercised Disney insider called Bloomberg and asked, “Are you fucking crazy?”) Yet morons at media outlets like The Hollywood Reporter sent out news alerts saying “George Lucas To Sell All His Disney Shares” aping the Bloomberg content. (But Deadline’s cautious headline at 6:10 PM read: ‘George Lucas’ Disney Shares Registered For Possible Sale: Bloomberg’ until I became involved.)
Don’t reporters realize that headlines can move financial markets? Or know that any one person unloading that much stock would have to do a separate SEC filing? Lucas has said that he plans to donate proceeds from the sale of Lucasfilm to education. But the registration form doesn’t suggest any sale is imminent. In fact, it says (the underlining is mine):
“The selling security holder has not advised us of any current plans, arrangements or understandings between any selling security
Walt Disney Chairman/CEO Bog Iger exercised options on 1 million shares of company stock and sold them for about $47.4 million, netting about $17.9 million, Bloomberg reports. Iger paid $29.51 to exercise each option and sold them for an average $47.37 each, according to an SEC filing, to result in a profit before fees of about $17.86 per share sold. Iger still holds 1.14 million shares. “He’s just diversifying his investments and still has a very large portfolio of Disney stock,” said Disney spokesperson Zenia Mucha.
CNBC’S David Faber is reporting that the fundraising effort by 70-year-old Michael Eisner, the former chairman/CEO of Walt Disney, kicked off last week and is being led by JP Morgan. He wants to raise $800 million for a new film and television production company, says Faber quoting people who have been approached about investing. What’s sought is $400 million in equity in a private placement and place $400 million in debt financing. The Eisner led production company hopes to make four to five films a year and produce two to three scripted television shows, CNBC says according to people approached to invest. Faber says Eisner is expected to invest $20 million of his own funds in the new production company. Presently dabbling in Internet content through Tornante and the occasional television program, Eisner is unquestionably a shrewd and successful businessman. But, Faber, analyzes:
Despite that track record, JP Morgan could have a tough time raising $400 million in cash for the effort, while also syndicating a revolving line of credit for a like amount. First off, it’s a very big amount of money for a start-up production company even with Michael Eisner at its helm. It’s also not clear whether Eisner has signed a distribution deal with any of the major film studios or whether Eisner will receive producing fees on the films and movies separately from the company, a potential non-starter for investors.
Then there’s the fact that ‘FrankenEisner’ isn’t popular in …
BREAKING… Below is what fired Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross just sent to his staff, followed by a statement from Disney Chairman Bob Iger. But make no mistake about it: Ross did not simply decide to step down – he was fired. He was named Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios on October 5, 2009. Previously, he’d been the very successful President of Disney Channels Worldwide overseeing global hits like Hannah Montana and High School Musical. His ouster now ends his 15+ year Disney career which included one of the most public and worst film failures in Hollywood — John Carter, a $200M writedown for the Walt Disney Co:
For the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented people on behalf of the world’s best loved brand. During that time, we’ve told some amazing stories around the world, created successful TV programming, movies, and franchises that generated new opportunities for the company in the process.
I’ve always said our success is created and driven by our people – whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business. But, the best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities. It’s one of the leadership lessons I’ve learned during my career, and it’s something I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to as I look at the challenges and opportunities ahead.
I believe in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team, and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else. But, I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me. For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.
It has been my honor to work with such incredible teams – at Disney Channels Worldwide and The Walt Disney Studios and the many other Disney businesses I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with. I know I leave the Studios in good hands and, even on separate paths, I am confident we are all destined for continued success.
Statement from Bob Iger, Chairman/CEO, Walt Disney Co
For more than a decade, Rich Ross’s creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney, redefining success in kids and family entertainment and launching franchises that generate value across our entire company.
Walt Disney Co plans to sell $750 million worth of both five- and 10-year notes and $350 million of 30-year bonds, issuing its first 30-year debt in almost a decade. Disney is selling bonds for the second time this year despite Standard & Poor’s saying the company already has “exceptional liquidity.” But the Fed this week signaled it plans to keep interest rates at a record low through the middle of 2013, meaning companies are taking advantage of the low borrowing costs and investors being more likely to seek longer-term bonds and their higher yields. A source told Bloomberg that the proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes but that terms for the deal have not been set.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint today against a California man who allegedly used confidential information about Disney’s planned acquisition of Marvel Entertainment — obtained from his girfriend, a Disney employee — to buy up Marvel stock options before the August 2009 sale and collect $192,000 after the deal was made public and Marvel shares soared. The complaint said that Toby G. Scammell got the insider information from his girlfriend’s BlackBerry and used some cash for his purchase from the account of his older brother, who was in the Army and deployed to Iraq at the time. The options raised a red flag at the SEC as Scammell, then 24, had never traded Marvel securities before buying the $5,400 in options. After the sale was announced, Marvel’s stock rose 25%, giving Scammell a 3,000% profit when he sold off.
BURBANK, Calif. (August 1, 2011) – Kathryn Kranhold has been named senior vice president, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company, it was announced today by Zenia Mucha, executive vice president, Corporate Communications. As part of the corporate communications team, Ms. Kranhold will help develop and execute the communications strategies for various issues and initiatives, including financial reporting, legal matters, corporate reputation management and executive communications. Ms. Kranhold also will work closely with Disney’s businesses, including Parks and Resorts, Media Networks, Consumer Products, Studio Entertainment and Interactive Media. She assumes her new position on August 1 and will report to Ms. Mucha.
EXCLUSIVE: Ruth Wilson is in negotiations to play the female lead in Disney’s Lone Ranger, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film that stars Armie Hammer as the Masked Man and Johnny Depp as Tonto. Details of her role are sketchy, but it is the female lead whose name is Rebecca. The film has a Dec. 21, 2012 release date. Gore Verbinski is directing. Wilson, a UK actress, had been in the mix for the role along with Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life) and Abbie Cornish (Limitless). She has had a standout TV career across the pond, starring in the acclaimed 2006 Masterpiece Theatre miniseries Jane Eyre (she was nominated for a Golden Globe) and most recently on the BBC’s Luther opposite Idris Elba.
Creative America, a grassroots initiative to unite the entertainment community in the fight against content theft, has launched today with the backing of major unions, guilds, studios and networks. Its primary goal will be to act as a gathering place (a “unified voice,” according to the group’s press release) where members can learn more about the impact of content theft on their jobs and the future of the industry, and to push for passage of anti-piracy legislation like the PROTECT IP Act, a Senate bill that is supported by content groups but criticized by individuals and businesses like Google who say it limits freedoms online. AFTRA, CBS Corp, the DGA, IATSE, NBCUniversal, SAG, Sony, Fox, Viacom, Disney and Warner Bros have signed on to the initiative. “The goal of Creative America is to bring together people of diverse skills, talents, interests and backgrounds who care about protecting jobs and creativity in this country,” said director Jonathan Mostow. “When the movies and TV shows that we create and finance are stolen, there is a ripple effect throughout our business. As revenue is lost, inevitably less money is available for new production. That translates to thousands of people losing their livelihoods and their opportunity to create. Passing the PROTECT IP Act or other similar legislation is an important step in stemming the tide of digital theft.”
Dish Network is starting to feel the heat for offering Starz as a free promotion to celebrate the satellite provider’s 30 years of operation — it turns out Starz and Walt Disney aren’t in the mood to party. Both have filed separate suits against Dish, which they are accusing of giving subscribers free access to the premium channel — which includes access to certain copyrighted Disney movies — in violation of existing deals. Disney argues in its suit, filed Monday in New York federal court, that Starz can only show its movies if the channel is acting like a premium service, and that Dish changed the dynamic of the arrangement by giving Starz away for free. Today, Starz joined in the fight in a Colorado district court, saying the promotion violated its contract with Dish. From the Starz filing: “On or around February 1, 2011, Dish began providing virtually all of its subscribers with free access to seven different STARZ channels and one ENCORE channel. In blatant violation of section 5(c) of the Dish Agreement, Dish told consumers that it was giving them these channels for “free.”
EXCLUSIVE: This is exactly the kind of information that shareholders of Big Media need to know but rarely see. It’s considered a red flag when any public company pays one of its bigwigs – usually the CEO – three times more than the average for the four other top executives which the SEC requires them to list. So I’ve taken proxy statements and done the computations and discovered that at least 16 of 35 companies failed that test. Often miserably. Nearly half of the media company compensation packages disclosed so far for 2010 show a startling degree of hero-worship as boards of directors pay their top dogs sums that far exceed what the pay was for other top execs in the company.
Stock grants accounted for big chunks of the compensation for those who top this list, including Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, DirecTV CEO Michael White, Nielsen CEO David Calhoun, and CBS chief Les Moonves. Radio station owner Entercom was off the charts: CEO David Field’s $9.1 million compensation was modest by media company standards but still 25.4 times bigger than average for the company’s other four executives. It includes $7.9 million from stock grants that only pay off if Entercom shares rise to hit certain target prices.
Still, corporate governance experts who focus on what’s often called “CEO centrality” say that an out-of-whack pay package is bad news for shareholders. It indicates that the board of directors may be in the pocket of a CEO – or believes he or she has near super-human power to help the company succeed. In either case, the board is likely to give the CEO all the credit when things go well, and blame others when they go badly. Research shows that usually hurts the stock price over time.
I’ll track this and other measures of lop-sided pay as other media companies release information for 2010. But there are a few things to keep in mind: The SEC reporting rules only cover the top-paid executives of publicly traded U.S. companies. That means we probably won’t know how much privately held Hearst pays CEO Frank Bennack, or how much Japan’s Sony pays CEO Howard Stringer. It also means that we’ll miss a lot of highly paid people who work at subsidiaries of a big company; Universal Studios’ Ron Meyer may be a big deal in Hollywood, but he was a relatively small fish last year at parent company General Electric.
To make comparisons in our list here as fair as possible, we looked at the compensation for the five most highly paid employees for 2010. Sometimes companies report the pay for more than five people — for example, when a top executive is replaced during the year a corporation will include the incoming and outgoing person’s compensation. And the pay data given the SEC can spike in a year when an executive cashes in stock or collects deferred compensation. So here’s how the companies stack up, with the top paid executive’s 2010 reported compensation and comparison to the average (median) pay for the four other highest-paid honchos:
1. Entercom: David Field. The son of company founder Joseph Field became CEO in 2002, about 15 years after leaving his job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Field made $9.1 million last year – the total of his $791,723 salary, $444,308 bonus, $7.9 million in stock, and $28,000 in other perks including medical insurance premiums. That’s a 348% raise in a year when company shares appreciated 53.2%. Though considered a strong operating executive, his salary stands out because it’s 25.4 times higher than the $358,692 average for the four other top executives listed in Entercom’s proxy statement. Field’s salary and the $3.9 million paid to CFO Stephen Fisher accounted for 93% of the $14 million that Entercom paid to its top five executives.