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Who the Hell Is Nelson Peltz, the Billionaire Investor Disney Is Freaking Out About?

So-called activist investor Nelson Peltz, who’s aiming to win two Disney board seats, has stirred up some controversy by calling out Disney’s recent era of “woke” strategy through diversifying its slate of films at Marvel Studios.

The 81-year-old businessman, whose experience is with food companies including Wendy’s and H.J. Heinz as well as having once supported the DeSantis presidential campaign, had a lot to say about The Marvels and Black Panther in an interview with the Financial Times. “Why do I have to have a Marvel [movie] that’s all women?” Peltz asked the publication. “Not that I have anything against women, but why do I have to do that? Why can’t I have Marvels that are both? Why do I need an all-Black cast?” Side note: Peltz happens to be the father of Nicola Peltz, who played Katara in 2010’s infamously very white Last Airbender adaptation.

He continued, “People go to watch a movie or a show to be entertained. They don’t go to get a message.” Since he also claimed that he doesn’t have experience in media, it’s interesting to note that Peltz’s Trian Partners is pushing for this vote as part of Ike Perlmutter’s hopes for retaliation against Disney CEO Bob Iger, who terminated him from Marvel Entertainment last year. Variety reported that, “Trian controls roughly $3.5 billion worth of Disney stock, 79% of which is owned by Perlmutter.” This goes back to Perlmutter’s feud with Kevin Feige, who pushed for Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Perlmutter fought against diversity in Marvel’s slate until Iger stepped in to force his hand and allow the films to be made.

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, starring the late Chadwick Boseman, was a hit with $1.35 billion at the worldwide box office; it kicked off the Academy Award-winning franchise and brought more inclusivity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Proving Perlmutter wrong publicly while revealing the lengths the forner Marvel exec went to in order to stop diverse superhero toys, merch, and movies being made really propelled Feige into the public’s good graces. Recent misses for the studio including The Marvels have caused some Marvel watchers to wonder if Feige’s position should be called into question. When asked by the Financial Times if it should, Peltz responded, “I’m not ready to say that, but I question his record.”

Disney board member George Lucas recently stood up against Peltz by releasing a statement (reprinted in Variety and elsewhere) to support Bob Iger in rejecting his bid. “Creating magic is not for amateurs,” Lucas said in a shot right at Peltz, who also admitted to the Financial Times he’s been a bit of a bully. (“What sense is being a billionaire if you’re not a bully?” Peltz has been quoted as saying.) Which is such a strange stance to bring into Disney, standing directly against all it represents.

Lucas continued, “When I sold Lucasfilm just over a decade ago, I was delighted to become a Disney shareholder because of my longtime admiration for its iconic brand and Bob Iger’s leadership.” He added, “When Bob recently returned to the company during a difficult time, I was relieved. No one knows Disney better. I remain a significant shareholder because I have full faith and confidence in the power of Disney and Bob’s track record of driving long-term value. I have voted all of my shares for Disney’s 12 directors and urge other shareholders to do the same.”

Peltz aims to add more board seats for his hedge fund firm through his Disney bid and support the agenda that Ike Perlmutter, his silent third party partner, has advocated for during his Disney tenure. The Hollywood Reporter disclosed that Perlmutter had this up his sleeve as soon as he was terminated, as he immediately pledged his stakes in Disney to Peltz. Before Iger came back Peltz had attempted a proxy battle with the company as a result of its losses, but was held off by his return. With this seat bid he hopes for round two in having more direct influence on the company board.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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