Facebook Inc.’s Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter Inc.’s Jack Dorsey are stepping down from Walt Disney Co.’s board as the increasing competition between media and technology companies creates new conflicts.
Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive officer, aren’t running for re-election at the annual meeting scheduled for March 8, according to a Disney filing Friday. Orin Smith, the 75-year-old lead independent director, and Robert Matschullat, 70, also won’t stand for re-election because of term and age limits for board members.
“Given our evolving business and the businesses Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Dorsey are in, it has become increasingly difficult for them to avoid conflicts relating to board matters,” Disney said in a statement.
The changes will leave the Disney board with one fewer director than last year as the company pursues its proposed $52.4 billion acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox Inc. As the entertainment industry continues to consolidate and the worlds of Silicon Valley and Hollywood merge, Disney’s board has at times found itself having to deal with conflicts of interest.
Two years ago Disney pursued an acquisition of Twitter, Dorsey’s company. Twitter and Facebook have also bid on and won the rights to stream live sporting events, a bedrock business for Disney and its ESPN network.
Facebook has escalated efforts around video programming, a lucrative growth area for the company’s advertising business, which brought in $10.1 billion last year. Twitter, too, has made more forays into video. Dorsey’s firm announced video streaming partnerships in May with 16 media companies, including some Disney competitors. Twitter also has a partnership with Bloomberg LP.
Disney maintained ties to the tech world through its board after the death of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, once the company’s largest shareholder. The entertainment giant named two members to its board in December, tapping CEOs from the software and biotech industries.
Safra Catz, co-CEO of software giant Oracle Corp., and Francis Desouza, head of Illumina Inc., will join the board on Feb. 1. General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra became a Disney director in August.
Disney’s board extended CEO Bob Iger’s contract last month for yet another two years, in connection with the proposed Fox acquisition. The 66-year-old is now scheduled to leave the company in 2021, the fourth time the company postponed his planned retirement date.
— With assistance by Mark Bergen