Abigail Disney Talks Brand Erosion and Executive Salaries in Latest Interview, Says The Walt Disney Company “Needs to be Saved From Itself”
Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, is once again expressing concern about The Walt Disney Company and specifically its hourly employees. Disney spoke about the company this week with The Hollywood Reporter‘s editor-at-large Kim Masters on KCRW’s The Business podcast.
“I don’t believe that the company and the magic can survive this kind of corporate behavior, I don’t think that the brand, as solid gold as it is, will last,” she said in regards to the company’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic. “And it is the kind of brand that is so enormous and all-encompassing and people invest so much into it, I don’t think it will erode slowly, it will fall over like a great sequoia … I am a little bit about saving the company over the long term. I think the company needs to be saved from itself.”
Disney is most concerned about the vast difference in pay between The Walt Disney Company’s executives and its hourly Cast Members.
“The high, high compensation at the top tends to come as a reward for pushing down compensation at the bottom,” she said. “When I try and draw a direct line between how the C-suite is paid and how the hourly workers are paid, when I try to draw a direct line between some of those things, I think they look at me like I am speaking in some kind of alien language, because to them that is the dumbest thing they have ever heard. To them, there is no relationship between what we pay a line worker or a shift worker and what we pay Bob Iger.”
The company has laid off at least 32,000 Cast Members this year, to which Disney responds, “Let’s not pretend that [laid off Cast Members] go somewhere and disappear; they lose their houses, they are homeless, and they have to steal things to eat.”
Disney sees a tug-of-war between the creativity of the company’s brand and a corporate ideology that has deepened the pay divide between hourly workers and executives.
“My grandfather made a lot of money, and he provided for me and my children of course, he wasn’t shy about taking compensation,” Disney said. “I’m not talking about ownership, I am saying are you willing to put everything you have up again and again and again, every single time, with the chance of losing everything, because that is what my grandfather did … He would never have taken a $66 million payday, never. And not because he was a perfect guy, but because it wasn’t done, it just wasn’t done.”
“[Iger] doesn’t do things that way,” she said. “He is a nice man and a great manager, I have nothing personal against him, but his strategy from day one was to buy Pixar, buy Lucasfilm, he was a purchaser of creativity which added and added to the machine. It was extremely disappointing to see a person who never held a creative job in his life take over the company. It is just a business, it is the deli, they are selling salami, and they are slicing it as thin as they can possibly slice it because they are not making any more salami.”
Disney also pointed out that while some think that Biden will reverse some corporate-friendly policies instated by Trump’s administration, Biden is from Delaware, where approximately 66% of Fortune 500 companies are incorporated. She also pointed out that Iger thought about running for president as a Democrat, and we’ve recently learned he’s being considered for an ambassadorship under Biden.