Disney’s Bob Iger shocker is the latest sign that Wall Street is calling the shots at major companies. Here are 3 other titans that have felt activist pressure this year.

Disney's Bob Iger shocker is the latest sign that Wall Street is calling the shots at major companies. Here are 3 other titans that have felt activist pressure this year.


  • Wall Street has increased its pressure on companies to get more efficient amid the ongoing stock market decline.
  • Bob Iger’s abrupt return to Disney as CEO this week is the latest example that investors are calling the shots.
  • Corporate titans like Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai have not been immune to the pressure from Wall Street.

When a company’s stock price rises, investors have little to complain about, but the opposite is true when stock prices are on the decline, as they have been for most of 2022.

This year’s broad decline has sparked a wave of activist investors heaping criticisms and advice on companies once thought to be immune from this type of shakeup: tech companies.

Once protected by soaring profits and a household brand-name, tech companies are facing pressure from Wall Street to right the ship of their fledging stock prices as concerns grow about the potential for a weaker economy in 2023.

And that’s often the best time for investors to make noise and ramp up pressure on the board to shake things up, as they are more likely to be listened to and have the most influence when uncertainty in the underlying business persists. 

This was made especially apparent after Disney abruptly fired its CEO Bob Chapek, just five months after the board of directors agreed to extend his contract until 2025. Chapek was replaced by former CEO Bob Iger.

Investors were fed up after weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings called into question Chapek’s long-term strategy of growing Disney’s streaming business at any cost, as well as a disappointment in its theme parks division.

Disney stock has dropped 21% since Chapek’s appointment in February 2020 and is down 51% from its March 2021 peak, compared to the S&P 500’s gain of 27% and 3%, respectively. 

The decline sparked activist investor Dan Loeb of Third Point to buy a $1 billion stake over the summer and urge the company to spin off ESPN. While Loeb eventually abandoned his plan, he struck a deal to add a member to Disney’s board.

Now, Disney is facing new pressure from Trian Fund Management’s Nelson Peltz, according to the Wall Street Journal. Peltz bought an $800 million stake earlier this month after Chapek reported weak fourth-quarter earnings and belatedly announced a workforce reduction. 

These are three other companies that have faced pressure from investors recently as their stock prices suffer.

Meta

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images



Even Meta’s CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, who owns a majority of the company’s voting shares and has no obligation to listen to activists, has received sharp criticism, including from long-timer investor Altimeter Capital.

Meta stock has plummeted nearly 70% since the company changed its name from Facebook, signaling its all-in metaverse bet. Over the same period, the Nasdaq 100 has fallen just 27%.

That underperformance speaks to investors’ loss of confidence in the costly pivot to building a new computing platform that may never be adopted by the masses.

In response, Altimeter’s Brad Gerstner sent Zuckerberg a letter with a list of to-do items, including a headcount cut of at least 20%, cuts to annual capital spending of at least $5 billion, and limits to annual metaverse investment to no more than $5 billion. Since the letter was released, Meta announced a 13% workforce reduction.

Alphabet

Google CEO Sundar Pichai talking

Sundar Pichai

Brandon Wade/Reuters



Since its November 2021 peak, Alphabet has underperformed the Nasdaq 100 by 6%. That’s not terrible but also not great, given the search-giant has typically been viewed as a defensive profit machine that performs well during most, if not all, economic environments.

The underperformance sparked a letter from major investor TCI Fund Management this month, with the hedge fund advocating for CEO Sundar Pichai to cut costs by reducing its headcount, reducing its average salary, and limiting losses from its Other Bets division.

“It’s a poorly kept secret in Silicon Valley that companies ranging from Google to Meta to Twitter to Uber could achieve similar levels of revenue with far fewer people,” TCI said.

The investor added Alphabet should launch an aggressive buyback to reduce its cash holdings of over $100 billion.

Salesforce.com

Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, wearing a sports coat jacket and in front of a blue background on a stage, extends his hands forward during a talk.

Marc Benioff

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images



Salesforce is down more than 50% from its 2021 peak compared to a 29% decline in the Nasdaq.

Activist-focused hedge fund Starboard Value took a stake in the company last month. While it hasn’t released a typical action plan it recommends co-CEOs Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor follow, it did say it sees potential for the software company to improve its profit margins.

And one way that can happen is via a reduction in its employee count. Since Starboard revealed its stake, Salesforce cut hundreds of jobs. 



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