* Disney nominates Sheryl Sandberg to board
* Shareholders to vote on nomination at March meeting (Adds analyst comments, background)
By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) nominated Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to its board on Wednesday, a move by the 86-year-old media company to tap into the younger, popular world of online social networks.
Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, is 40, which would make her the youngest Disney director. The youngest now is La Opinion Publisher Monica Lozano, who was 52 as of the company’s last proxy filing.
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Steve Jobs and Sybase Inc SY.N CEO John Chen, also board members, are 54.
Sandberg’s experience at Facebook, which has more than tripled in size during the past 16 months to more than 350 million users, gives Disney valuable first-hand insight from one of the Web’s fastest-growing companies.
“It shows that Disney is committed to taking social networking seriously, integrating social networking into its traditional entertainment content,” said Needham & Co analyst Laura Martin.
She added that bringing Sandberg to the board is a cost-effective way for Disney to acquire Web expertise, as opposed to acquiring a company.
News Corp (NWSA.O) paid $580 million for social networking site MySpace in 2005, a move that was seen as prescient at the time, but has proven disappointing, as MySpace’s popularity has been eclipsed by Facebook.
Should Sandberg become a director, it would expand the size of Disney’s board to 13. Disney spokesman Jonathan Friedland said the board size has varied between 11 and 13 directors over the years.
“She knows a lot about a lot of the areas of new media and technology growth that we are interested in, so it makes a lot of sense for us to have her,” said Friedland.
Sandberg, who was previously an executive at Google Inc (GOOG.O) and who worked at the U.S. Treasury Department, was not available for comment.
Disney, which generated $36 billion in revenues in its most recent fiscal year, owns media properties, including the Walt Disney Pictures movie studio, ABC Television Networks and cable sports network ESPN and part of online video website Hulu.
Oppenheimer & Co analyst Jason Helfstein said Disney’s Internet operations are currently immaterial to its earnings.
“None of the big media companies make much money on the Internet,” said Helfstein.
Facebook, which allows users to connect with friends and colleagues online and to exchange messages and videos, makes most of its money from online advertising — although analysts are still waiting to see whether the company’s money-making potential can match its popularity. Earlier this year, Facebook board member Mark Andreesen told Reuters the company was on track to generate more than $500 million in revenue in 2009.
Disney shareholders will vote on Sandberg’s nomination, along with the company’s 12 other directors, at its annual shareholder meeting in March.
Disney shares closed 12 cents higher at $32.43 trading on Wednesday. (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Robert MacMillan, Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon)