Two years after the Walt Disney Corporation bought Marvel Entertainment, the House of Mouse is facing a public relations nightmare brought on by the corporate mindset behind the House of Ideas as Isaac Perlmutter's "shake up" of Disney's consumer products division has brought not only accusations of racism but also lawsuits against the company.
Perlmutter, the reclusive CEO of Marvel Entertainment, found himself being named as the exec at the heart of an ongoing controversy by an article that ran late last week in the Financial Times newspaper. According to that report, Perlmutter - who became the second largest individual shareholder at Disney as a result of the Marvel buyout - has become a force to be reckoned with within Disney over the last few years, and not in a good way; his influence in the Disney Consumer Products division is said to be directly responsible for the resignation of chairman Andy Mooney, as well as several other executives within the division, including "three female executives who hired a lawyer to seek individual financial settlements," according to the paper. That's in addition to "another senior female executive [filing] an internal complaint about Mr. Perlmutter, alleging that he made threatening remarks to her."
(Deadline reports that the three female executives, who are all African American, have settled their disputes with Marvel. The same report quotes a source as saying that, when Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2, "Perlmutter apparently told Mr. Mooney... words to the effect that no-one would notice because black people 'look the same,'" a charge far more blunt than anything in the FT piece.)
An anonymous source within Disney is quoted by the FT as saying "Usually when a company takes over its culture is the one that prevails... But in this case it was the other way around."
Perlmutter has been an enigmatic and divisive figure during his time with Marvel Entertainment; while he has clearly been an instrumental part of the company's rise from bankruptcy to entertainment dominance, his methods and manner of dealing with employees has long been a thing of legend, whether it's allowing profitable perennial material to fall out of print or laying off much-needed, much-loved members of staff with the belief that the remaining employees can pick up the slack.
This isn't the first time that Perlmutter has been linked to changes within Disney. Earlier this year, he was rumored to have helped with the controversial ouster of Disney Studios head Rick Ross following the failure of the John Carter movie, with a Deadline source describing Perlmutter as "making [Disney CEO Bob] Iger's life miserable with back-seat managing of everything, especially Walt Disney Studios."
Marvel sources are pushing back against this latest story, with anonymous sources telling Deadline that the idea of Perlmutter being racist is "preposterous," and that the current reports are the result of "disgruntled employees... peddling accusations" against the executive. Officially, neither Disney nor Mr. Perlmutter have chosen to comment about the accusations, lawsuits or settlements.