Dan Loeb did not make his name or his fortune by demonstrating a flexible cast of mind. No: The Third Point founder is better seen as a savant, who instantly able to diagnose a target’s problems and then insistently willing to browbeat it into submission.
Recently, however, Loeb has suffered a role reversal, in which he is the entrenched and intransigent corporate leader, in this case over Third Point’s publicly-listed London vehicle, taken to task for some serious underperformance and having demanded of him a course of action he really doesn’t want to take. Perhaps this has injected a bit of empathy in the man. That, and/or his bruising experience with entertainment conglomerates has made him a bit more able to change his mind. Because while he remains dead-set on Disney doubling down on streaming with the dollars saved by doing away with its dividend, as he has been for nearly three years now, he’s not so sure anymore of the wisdom of his other big plan for Big Mouse Ears, which was getting rid of the thing Disney CEO Bob Chapek now says is going to make his company a whole boatload of money going forward.
“We have a better understanding of ESPN’s potential as a stand-alone business and another vertical for [Disney] to reach a global audience to generate ad and subscriber revenues,” Mr. Loeb wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “We look forward to seeing [ESPN chief James] Pitaro execute on the growth and innovation plans, generating considerable synergies as part of The Walt Disney company….” For Disney, ESPN+, the streaming service attached to the sports network, is growing. ESPN+ has 22.8 million subscribers, Disney reported last month, a 53% gain from a year earlier.
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