Mouse Business 101: Introduction and Shareholders

How much would you pay for the opportunity to have a chance, even for just thirty seconds, to ask a question or pitch your next big Disney idea to Bob Iger and many of The Walt Disney Company’s upper management?  What if I told you that price could be as low as $31.00, and, at the risk of sounding like a late night informercial, what if I also told you that with that $31.00 I would throw in for no extra charge a tiny tiny tiny piece of ownership in The Walt Disney Company?  Sounds crazy? Maybe not, because $31.00 is about the currently going price for one share of stock in The Walt Disney Company. Along with that one share of stock comes all the rights and powers of being a shareholder in the company, including the ability to attend the Annual Shareholder’s meeting, which was just held on March 6.

By law, an owner of a share of stock in a company has one fundamental right, and that is the right to vote. As established by the company’s charter, Disney holds an annual meeting which affords its shareholders the opportunity to vote on a variety of subjects, ranging from electing the board of directors to approving a stock buyback plan. I know what you are thinking, this sounds worse than a trip to Six Flags. But don’t forget this is Disney we are talking about. Typically the real excitement of the meeting is the question and answer session. The session where even if you own just one share of stock, you have the opportunity to walk up to a microphone and question/grill/pitch to CEO Bob Iger and Chairman John Pepper Jr. for a good 2-3 minutes.

The session is exciting, because the questions asked are more like threads you would find on the DisneyWorld Trivia forums, than on say a CNBC forum. Here were the three topics that really jumped out at me:

1.  Magical Express will not be offered at the Disneyland Resort, any time soon or maybe ever. Disneyland just does not have the amount of visitors that Walt Disney World does, and the infrastructure would be too expensive.

2.  Look to Disney.com in the future for access to classic Walt Disney movies and shows. When asked directly about the market for classic Walt Disney television, such as the Wonderful World of Disney and other Disney Classics the answer was an interesting and encouraging one. The company is well aware of the demand but the costs and effectiveness of releasing DVD sets and specials has been a problem. But there is a solution. Apparently all that effort put into Disney.com was not just so that people can play an online virtual pirates game. Although the plan seems to be in extremely early stages, it appears that Disney will be releasing archived content through Disney.com. Now before you get your hopes up, it was clear that this was not something that we can look for in the near term, and it was also unclear whether the content would be free or whether there might be some subscription charges involved.

3.  Without a doubt I saved the most interesting topic for last: A World or U.S. Annual Pass. There are two reasons why this subject was so interesting.  First, when it was initially brought up, both Bob Iger and John Pepper Jr. seemed legitimately interested and excited, admitting that they had never thought of it but it was an interesting idea. Secondly, the topic was brought up at least two more times in separate questions, and both times was acknowledged and stated that it would be looked into. In a question and answer session that consisted of about 25 questions, it was important to note, and I am sure both men did, that this subject came up on 3 separate occasions. There seems to be demand for the idea and at least on the surface it is intriguing. Keep your eyes and ears open for further developments on this one.

In total the question and answer session lasted about 45 minutes. It covered a variety of topics and is definitely worth a listen. It is available until March 20 as a webcast at Disney.com/investor. So the next time you have think you have the next big idea for Disney or just want to have Bob Iger answer your question, start digging under those sofa cushions and car seats. You only need about $31.00.

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