Both on Twitter and in a Washington Post op-ed, she lamented the salary gap between Iger and his employees—Iger makes 1,424 times what the median Disney worker does—and called out the fact that pay practices like Disney’s have led to a shrinking middle class, with more people in poverty and a few super rich.
Iger is indeed super rich: Forbes estimates his net worth at $690 million. That’s likely more than Abigail Disney. Based on a review of Forbes’ historical files, and assumptions that she and her three siblings each inherited an even share of their father Roy E. Disney’s fortune, Abigail is likely worth less than $500 million.
While Abigail didn’t return Forbes’ calls, she did talk about her personal fortune recently and claimed to have given away “so much more” than she inherited. “I’ll tell you this: I could be a billionaire if I wanted to be a billionaire, and I’m not because I don’t want to be a billionaire. That’s an insane amount of money ” she told The Cut about her net worth, though she refused to give an exact number. She added that she has given away about $70 million throughout her life.
Iger’s net worth is not quite enough for him to join the ranks of the more than 600 billionaires in the United States, but as the country’s third-highest-paid CEO last year, according to Equilar (behind Oracle co-CEOs Mark Hurd and Safra Catz), he’s not far off. Forbes estimates that his fortune is split nearly evenly between Disney shares, which typically make up a good deal of his compensation and bonuses, and cash or other investments from sales of Disney shares over the decades. Since he has worked at the company since 1996, all of this has added up.
He’s been well compensated since becoming CEO in 2005. During Iger’s first full year as CEO, he made $22 million, not including $2.9 million worth of stock options. Last year his salary was $39.3 million (that doesn’t include stock awards)—still more than 850 times the median annual pay of a Disney worker. Iger was awarded another $26.3 million in stock after he agreed to stay on as Disney CEO through 2021 and because he closed the $71.3 billion Disney-Fox mega merger in March of this year. Thus to Disney, Iger’s sky-high salary is well deserved, a reflection of his value and the company’s strong financial performance.
Since Iger took the reins of the company in October 2005, Disney’s stock price has risen nearly five-fold, from $24 to a high of $142, in large part thanks to his savvy decisions. Iger made ABC and Disney shows available on streaming platforms before rivals NBC and CBS did. Between The Avengers and Star Wars, Disney has record after record at the box office thanks to the acquisitions of Marvel and Lucasfilm. Iger’s recent purchase of Fox assets brings Disney more intellectual property than ever, as well as a controlling stake in streaming service Hulu. Under Iger’s tenure, Disney has added more than 70,000 jobs, for a total of about 200,000.
The company clapped back at Abigail Disney’s Twitter tirade, saying that the starting hourly wage at Disneyland is $15—double the federal minimum wage—and that the company makes investments in the college and vocational education of its employees. After the tax reform bill passed, lowering its corporate tax bill, Disney paid 125,000 employees a one-time $1,000 bonus last year (which is pennies compared with Iger’s cash bonus of $18 million).
The spotlight on Iger’s salary is part of a larger conversation around pay inequality that’s been taking place in the U.S. as the gap between the super-wealthy and the country’s poorest has grown wider. Iger is not alone in received outsize pay: 13 public company CEOs make more than 1,000 times the pay of the typical employee at his or her company, according to a report from MyLogIQ, including Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and Coca Cola CEO James Quincey. The top 1% of American workers earn vastly more than the bottom 50%, collectively. The 400 richest Americans, The Forbes 400, hold more wealth than “all Black households, plus a quarter of Latino households [combined],” according to a report from the Institute for Policy Studies. And the global 1% control nearly half of the world’s wealth, according to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report.
Fixing the vast imbalance of wealth has become part of a nationwide conversation. There have been requests for companies to pay a living wage, as well as talk of increasing the nation’s minimum wage. Some have also pushed for raising the estate tax or higher taxes for the uber-wealthy—something for which billionaire Bill Gates and, yes, Abigail Disney, have expressed support.