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Disney shareholders return Steve Jobs to board

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is reelected along with 12 other directors despite questions about his health.

March 24, 2011|By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times

Walt Disney Co. shareholders returned Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs to the entertainment company's board of directors, despite questions raised about whether his health would hamper his ability to serve. Jobs was reelected along with 12 other directors.

The shareholders also rejected a proposal that would have ended the practice of allowing Disney's board to administer a retest to determine whether senior executives qualify to receive stock bonuses.

Unite Here, the union that represents about 2,100 hotel workers at Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks, put forth the proposal, maintaining that the second eligibility test increases the likelihood that top Disney executives would receive their awards.

Disney, which unsuccessfully petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to keep the provision off its proxy, recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal. The board argued that it would limit the compensation committee's ability to "craft a compensation program that appropriately incentivizes performance."

The only unscripted development at Wednesday's shareholder meeting in Salt Lake City was a protest staged by Unite Here, which used the event to air its grievances in a three-year-long contract dispute with the entertainment giant.

Unite Here union members dressed as Disney, Pixar and Marvel characters distributed leaflets to investors outside the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, where the meeting was held.

In leaflets and in remarks during the public-comment portion of the shareholder meeting, union members emphasized the gulf between a Disneyland hotel housekeeper's annual salary of $20,800 and Chief Executive's Robert A. Iger's 2010 compensation of $28 million.

"Disney is an example of the wage disparity in worker and executive pay," said Tom Bray, a bellman at the Disneyland Hotel who last year traveled to Disney's annual meeting in San Antonio to argue for affordable healthcare.

Board Chairman John E. Pepper Jr. defended Iger's 2010 pay package, which shareholders endorsed Wednesday.

He said that the issue of compensation had received a great deal of attention recently but that such financial lures were needed to recruit and retain the finest executives. He described Iger as "the very finest CEO" and argued that the executive was responsible for the company's recent success, including the pivotal 2006 acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios.

Iger assured the hotel workers that he had become personally involved in the matter and said he looked forward to receiving the union's response to the most recent proposal, submitted weeks ago.

The new proposal allows workers to remain with their current plan or choose from among seven Disney health plans, with incentives of up to $5,000 for those who switch.

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