Former Marvel Executive Ike Perlmutter Claims He Was Fired From The Walt Disney Company Because He Wanted To Keep Costs Down

Ike Perlmutter via CNBC YouTube

Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter disputed reports that The Walt Disney Company laid him off amid cost cutting measures that will see around 7,000 Disney employees let go over the coming months.

(L-R): Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Kathryn Newton as Cassandra “Cassie” Lang, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne/Wasp in Marvel Studios’ ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Werpin claimed at the end of March that “Disney is folding [Perlmutter’s] Marvel Entertainment unit into other parts of the company and that he would be let go.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Robbie Whelan also reported, “A Disney representative said Tuesday that Horacio Gutierrez, Disney’s general counsel, called Mr. Perlmutter and told him that his job was being terminated as part of the company’s broader effort to cut $5.5 billion from its content and administrative budgets and eliminate 7,000 jobs.”

However, Perlmutter told The Wall Street Journal he was fired from the company over businesses differences specifically his insistence on keeping costs low and demanding return on investment for Marvel Studios productions and other Disney products.

Tessa Thompson as King Valkyrie in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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Perlmutter asserted, “I have no doubt that my termination was based on fundamental differences in business between my thinking and Disney leadership, because I care about return on investment.”

Specifically Perlmutter noted his focus was not on how big the box office grosses, and claimed only people in Hollywood focus on box office gross, “All they talk about is box office, box office. I care about the bottom line. I don’t care how big the box office is. Only people in Hollywood talk about box office.”

He went on to dispute the claim he was let go claiming, “It was merely a convenient excuse to get rid of a longtime executive who dared to challenge the company’s way of doing business.”

Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Perlmutter also implied his firing was also because he tried to make changes to the company by trying to bring in activist investor Nelson Peltz to the Disney board due to the declining financials of The Walt Disney Company.

He explained, “My experience with any major corporation, when they’re having problems and they don’t have the free cash or whatever it is, usually people like Nelson Peltz know how to put it back on track.”

Perlmutter then asserted that someone like Peltz needed to come in from the outside because The Walt Disney Company’s corporate culture is so entrenched, “I learned one thing about creative people my whole life: You cannot give them an open credit card.…They’re doing this for 30 years, why would they change?”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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On top of Perlmutter being opposed to Disney CEO Bob Iger’s overall business strategy, he was also opposed to the company’s political intervention in the state of Florida when the company opposed Florida legislation blocking the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation to children in grades kindergarten through third grade.

Perlmutter relayed a conversation he had with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, “Ron, you’re right. Disney doesn’t have the right to get involved with politics, and you know, I’m the largest individual shareholder.”

He went on to reveal he even advised Disney executives to not get involved, “Don’t get involved in politics. You’re going to get hurt. It’s a no-win situation.”

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at a "Unite & Win Rally" at Arizona Financial Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at a “Unite & Win Rally” at Arizona Financial Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona via Gage Skidmore, CC2.0

Maybe the biggest claim Perlmutter made in his comments to The Wall Street Journal was that former Disney CEO Bob Chapek had his hands tied by previous budget approvals made during current CEO Bob Iger’s previous tenure as CEO.

Whelan details, “At various points, Mr. Perlmutter said, he raised concerns with then-CEO Mr. Chapek about what he viewed as out-of-control spending on Marvel movies. According to Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Chapek agreed but said he didn’t have the ability to change the spending plans because they had already been approved by senior management.”

Perlmutter specifically stated, “There was no way to force the issue because the creative people at the Walt Disney Company are very powerful.”

(L-R): Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Karun (Harish Patel), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Sprite (Lia McHugh), and Sersi (Gemma Chan) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo by Sophie Mutevelian. © 2021 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.

RELATED: Disney CEO Bob Iger Confirms Company Will Continue To Get Involved In Politics, Compares Grooming Young Children With Gender Identity And Sexual Orientation To Civil Rights And The Holocaust

In fact, when Bob Iger returned to the company he made it clear that he was going to give even more power to the creative people at the company.

CNBC reported Iger sent a memo to employees making this clear when he relieved Kareem Daniel of his position at the head of the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.

The memo read in part that he would be creating a “new structure that puts more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalizes costs.”

Bob Iger via 2023 Annual Meeting of Shareholders Webcast

Later in the memo, Iger detailed, “Our goal is to have the new structure in place in the coming months. Without question, elements of DMED will remain, but I fundamentally believe that storytelling is what fuels this company, and it belongs at the center of how we organize our businesses.”

He added, “This is a moment of great change and opportunity for our company as we begin our second century.”

Robert A. Iger, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, at The Walt Disney Company’s Investor Day 2020.

While Perlmutter noted he spoke with both Disney executives and Ron DeSantis, it wasn’t over any kind of principled moral stance on the issue. As Perlmutter revealed he would personally pay for mutilation surgery for Disney employees who think they can change their sex via surgery or chemical alterations.

He said, “I called and said, if anyone would like to change their sex, my professor is the number one in the country. They should call me, and I’ll help them to make an appointment.” 

(L-R): Charlie Cox as Daredevil/Matt Murdock and Tatiana Maslany as She-Hulk/Jennifer “Jen” Walters in Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. © 2022 MARVEL.

What do you make of Perlmutter’s comments and what do you think it means for the future of The Walt Disney Company?

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