On March 10, 2009, the Chief Executive Officer and President of the Walt Disney Co. addressed the annual shareholder’s meeting. This is the transcript of Bob Iger’s portion of the address.
Bob Iger addresses shareholders
Thank you very much and good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
You’ve just seen some great examples of the entertainment and experiences that are at the heart of what we do. And it makes me very proud of what we accomplish day in and out, and of the people who do their best to meet the high expectations of our guests, our viewers and of our consumers. It also makes me feel really hopeful about our future.
We are meeting during perhaps the most difficult economic times of our lifetime. And these are conditions that even the strongest companies can’t fully escape. I’m confident, though, that our brands, our products and our people can overcome the challenges ahead.
We remain focused on what you just saw – and that’s creating the very best in entertainment, whether it’s movies, television shows, online virtual worlds, thrilling park experiences; also on innovating while respecting our tremendous legacy; and on maintaining the integrity and the quality of our people and our products.
Two weeks ago, Wall·E took home the Oscar for best animated movie. And that is a perfect example of how we mix great storytelling and cutting edge technology to come up with a film that’s both a huge artistic success, but also a huge commercial success.
Pixar’s next film will take audiences on a truly unforgettable journey to a lost world with two pretty unlikely adventurers. It’s called Up and it premieres in May. Here’s a first-time look at a new trailer.
It’s nice when you run a trailer and it gets a good reaction. Thank you very much.
Our other animated film for 2009 is called The Princess and the Frog, and that’s going to open in New York and Los Angeles on November 25th, followed by a wide release on December 11th.
We’ll be introducing Disney’s latest princess in our return to 2-D animation in a funny, touching and modern take on Disney classics that I’m sure you and your families are going to love.
Here’s a sneak peek of an unfinished, and I emphasize that word unfinished, scene. The Princess and the Frog.
Coming to a theater near you November 25th and December 11th.
As stewards of this great Company and of such outstanding brands as Disney, ABC and ESPN, we have reason to be optimistic that the quality of the content we produce will serve us well.
Our goal is to create long-term shareholder value through high-quality branded content and consumer experiences that can be leveraged over time across our businesses, across technology and across territories.
Despite an economy that slowed noticeably, we delivered strong results in fiscal year 2008. Our earnings per share increased to record levels for the 5th consecutive year, and excluding gains on asset sales, EPS increased in 2008 by double-digit percentages over the prior year.
Over the last several years, we have returned substantial capital to shareholders via dividends even as we invested in new business opportunities. Last year we paid a cash dividend of 35 cents per share. It was the 53rd consecutive year in which we paid a dividend.
As I said at the beginning, this is a tough economy and it was reflected in our 2009 first quarter. As a result, we’ve been taking deliberate steps to operate even more efficiently and invest prudently and have put in place marketing and pricing strategies appropriate to today’s market conditions. We continue to look for ways to adjust our cost base to changes in demand, provided those actions do not compromise the quality of our entertainment and guest experiences.
We remain intensely focused on creating high-quality branded content and we continue to launch new and grow existing franchises that are designed to resonate with consumers globally, create value across our Company and set us apart from our competitors.
This year, we will have a new Disney Channel show from the Jonas Brothers, a new Hannah Montana feature film, as you saw earlier, the introduction of our latest Disney Princess, Tiana, in Princess and the Frog, and production is also underway on the third Toy Story film and on sequels to Cars, Pirates and High School Musical.
We are also investing in promising areas key to our future. Last week, steel cutting began on our two new Disney Cruise ships. Today, I’m pleased to announce their names. The Disney Dream will set sail in 2011, while the Disney Fantasy will hit the high seas in 2012.
Development is well underway at Disney’s California Adventure to significantly expand and enhance the Disneyland Resort, while work has started in Hawaii to build a magnificent new Disney Vacation Club and resort.
As we navigate this tough economy, we are making a major commitment to upholding the excellent reputation of the Disney name by significantly expanding our corporate responsibility efforts.
This is intended to make Disney stand out and we believe fundamentally builds shareholder value and reinforces our position as a company that people want to invest in, work for, and do business with.
On the environmental front, we’ve recently completed our first Company-wide greenhouse gas inventory and set both ambitious long-term goals and challenging 3-to-5 year targets to reduce our emissions, our electricity use, our waste and our impact on water and eco-systems. These are big commitments that put us at the forefront of global companies seeking to preserve the planet for future generations.
All kinds of activities – big and small – are underway at the Company. We’ve switched the trains, the trams and the submarines at Disneyland Resort to alternative fuels. We’ve installed solar arrays at our Burbank studios and received Green Lodging certificates for all of our Florida hotels.
Through a Company-wide initiative called “The Green Standard,” we’ve cut paper and electricity use substantially. And we’ve increased our commitment to Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Fund, which supports habitat preservation and efforts to preserve and save endangered species around the world.
Disney has a wonderful legacy of vibrant programs that support charitable giving, volunteerism and diversity in the workplace – also diversity in our movies, our shows and other entertainment that we create.
And we’ve also now gone global with our two-year old initiative to associate our brands and characters with healthier foods.
And we have made a firm commitment to ban depictions of cigarette smoking in Disney-branded films aimed at kids and families.
We are also refining a number of other critical programs, from the way we monitor factories that make Disney-licensed products to the way we welcome our disabled guests at our parks and resorts.
Details of all of these efforts are available in our new corporate responsibility report, which went online yesterday, and provides great insight into how we approach critical issues affecting children and families, content and products, the environment, community and our workplaces. We’re very proud of our social responsibility efforts, but recognize there’s still a lot of work to be done.
We’re also very proud of what we are accomplishing broadly as a Company. Disney, ABC and ESPN [are] all great brands, great entertainment – and all are pioneering new ways to deliver their entertainment and their brands to consumers when, where and how they want it.
We run unique parks and resorts that serve tens of thousands of guests daily on three continents. And we are the largest licensor of manufactured goods in the world. So, our global impact is diverse and substantial and we are determined to do the best possible job we can at everything that we do.
We are being extremely realistic about the global economy and the challenges we face. But that realism is accompanied by a strong belief in what we can accomplish together to not only emerge from this downturn but to position the company for future prosperity.
It is this blend of realism and optimism that is guiding us through this terribly unsettling time. Before I turn the meeting back over to John Pepper, I’d like to touch on one more thing.
At last year’s annual meeting, I was asked about ways in which Disney reaches out and serves its most ardent or biggest fans. It was a really good question, especially since our fans are so important to us and we know we can never do too good of a job in this area. Today, we’re pleased to share some exciting news with you.
Just to explain a bit, membership in D23 is going to give you a unique insider’s perspective on the timeless stories and experiences that define Disney, whether it’s online at D23’s new Web site or within the pages of its fantastic new quarterly publication.
We’re also going to be hosting a truly unique new Disney fan experience – The D23 Expo – which will be the largest, most impressive gathering of all things Disney ever. And you’ll be able to get information on D23 online, actually, starting today.
On behalf of everyone at Disney, we thank you, our fans, once again for your support and loyalty over all these years. And I think D23 will serve all of you quite well.
And now, I’d like to turn the stage over to John Pepper, who will conduct the business portion of the meeting.