An heir to the Walt Disney fortune has described the $65.6m (£50.5m) paid to the company’s chief executive, Bob Iger, as “insane”.
Abigail Disney, an Emmy award-winning film-maker and a granddaughter of the company’s co-founder Roy Disney, said it was outrageous that Iger was paid 1,424 times more than the average pay for a Disney employee last year. Iger’s 2018 pay package increased by 80% from $36.3m in 2017. He also collected $43.9m in 2016.
“Let me be very clear. I like Bob Iger,” said Abigail Disney in a series of 22 tweets on Sunday. “I do NOT speak for my family but only for myself. Other than owning shares (not that many) I have no more say in what happens there than anyone else. But by any objective measure a pay ratio over a thousand is insane.”
The tweets followed up a “humane capitalism” speech she gave last week in which she said Iger was a “good man” who had performed well at Disney and deserved a bonus, but such huge pay deals “had a corrosive effect on society”.
Let me very clear. I like Bob Iger. I do NOT speak for my family but only for myself. Other than owning shares (not that many) I have no more say in what happens there than anyone else. But by any objective measure a pay ratio over a thousand is insane. https://t.co/O34OjXd6rr— Abigail Disney (@abigaildisney) April 21, 2019
“When he got his bonus last year, I did the math, and I figured out that he could have given personally, out of pocket, a 15% raise to everyone who worked at Disneyland, and still walked away with $10m,” she said at the Fast Company event in New York.
“So there’s a point at which there’s just too much going around the top of the system into this class of people who – I’m sorry this is radical – have too much money. There is such a thing.”
Abigail Disney said Iger “certainly” deserved a bonus, but from speaking to workers in Disneyland, it was clear to her they deserved and needed a rise. She said many Disneyland workers were struggling to pay for essentials such as medicine.
A Disney spokesman said: “Disney has made historic investments to expand the earning potential and upward mobility of our workers, implementing a starting hourly wage of $15 at Disneyland that’s double the federal minimum wage, and committing up to $150m for a groundbreaking education initiative that gives our hourly employees the opportunity to obtain a college or vocational degree completely free of charge.”
The company also said the increase in Iger’s 2018 pay was caused by share grants connected with Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
Abigail Disney argued it was not enough for the company to commit to paying double the minimum wage. “We all know the federal minimum is too low to live on,” she said. “So why must we, at a company that’s more profitable than it’s ever been, be paying anything so close to the least the law allows?”
She said the Walt Disney Company was not doing enough to reward those who kept it running every day. Specifically, she called on corporate executives to give employees pay rises, rather than one-off bonuses. A rise, she said, would dramatically improve the living standards of workers while having little to no impact on top earners. “Maybe they can’t afford a third home, or another boat,” she said on Twitter. “I’m not being facetious here. That’s the kind of sacrifice we’d be talking about for high-level execs.”
Abigail Disney interviewed on CNBC about US millionaires and tax
Responding to criticism directed at her for taking a stand against excessive executive pay, Abigail Disney said: “Pointing out the incongruity of pay at the top and pay at the bottom provokes a reaction because it so violates our innate sense of fairness, it is impossible not to wince.”
Her comments came after a report from the executive data firm Equilar noted Iger’s pay was about 1,424 times that of the median pay for a Disney employee, at $59,434.
Abigail Disney is a member of the activist organisation Patriotic Millionaires, which is calling for higher taxes on the wealthy.
She has said she has given away $70m since she turned 21. Abigail Disney told New York magazine’s The Cut that if it were up to her, “I would pass a law against private jets, because they enable you to get around a certain reality”.