The life and activism of Abigail Disney, the millionaire heiress who wants to be taxed more and is critical of her family company

  • Abigail Disney is one of a handful of ultrawealthy people calling on governments to tax them more.

  • She's been arrested while protesting private-jet use and has been critical of her family's business.

  • Take a look at the life, career, and activism of the millionaire Walt Disney Company heiress.

Abigail Disney is making headlines again, this time for her involvement in a campaign by some of the world's ultrawealthy to convince government leaders to tax them more.

Disney is one of over 250 millionaires and billionaires who recently signed an open letter saying they were "proud to pay more" in taxes to "address the dramatic rise of economic inequality."

Disney, who's the grandniece of Walt Disney, is one of the most vocal supporters of higher taxes for the wealthy among the wealthy themselves. She's also a film producer who's frequently criticized the House of Mouse over the years. Disney was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.

Here's a closer look at the life, career, and activism of Abigail Disney.

Abigail Disney is the grandniece of Walt Disney.

Walt Disney uses a baton to point to sketches of Disneyland
Walt Disney (pictured) and his older brother Roy O. Disney, Abigail Disney's grandfather, cofounded The Walt Disney Company together.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Her grandfather, Roy O. Disney, cofounded The Walt Disney Company alongside Walt Disney, his younger brother, in 1923.

She has three siblings: Susan, Tim, and Roy P. Disney.

Growing up, she said, her family was upper middle class for a time before Disney's stock price — and thus their wealth — skyrocketed. At that point, she said, she "didn't even recognize" her family anymore.

Abigail disney
Disney has said wealth drastically changed her family.Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

"We went from being comfortable, upper-middle-class people to suddenly my dad had a private jet," she told The Cut in 2019. "That's when I feel that my dad really lost his way in life. And that's why I feel hyperconscious about what wealth does to people. I lived in one family as a child, and then I didn't even recognize the family as I got older."

She's spoken at length about how her family name and wealth have given her a very comfortable life.

abigail disney
Disney has said she was born into "a life of enormous privilege."Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images for Burda Media

"Because of my grandfather's extraordinary success, I have lived a life of enormous privilege," she wrote in a 2024 report. "I don't think there is a single luxury, comfort, or convenience that I have not experienced over the course of my life on account of my family's wealth."

Disney has degrees from Yale, Stanford, and Columbia.

abigail disney
She studied English literature and philosophy.Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Disney has said she pursued her degrees, in English literature and philosophy, partly because of "an inferiority complex around people who have actually earned their money."

"I did grow up with this doubt about myself," she told The Cut in 2019. "Like, did Yale really say yes because I was that good, or did Yale say yes because of my last name? I'll never know. I've spent a lot of time earning things like postgraduate degrees that make me feel legitimate."

Disney married the film producer Pierre Hauser in 1988, and they share four children.

Disney hasn't shied away from criticizing her family's business.

Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse statue.
A statue of Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse.Melissa Wells/Insider

In 2019 she said she met with Disney workers after getting a message from an upset employee, adding that she felt "livid" about their working conditions.

Disney CEO Bob Iger "needs to understand he's an employee, just the same as the people scrubbing gum off the sidewalk are employees," Disney told Yahoo News, "and they're entitled to all the same dignity and human rights that he is."

She said last year that she believed Iger was a "basically decent person" but that "money and power have hijacked his sensibilities."

"As with so many people at the very top of systems, they can't see outside of the system they're in," she told Fortune. "They can't imagine a different way of doing it, and that's what we need."

She has also described Iger's pay package as "insane" compared with what the average Disney worker makes, adding that it was a "moral issue."

Disney's net worth is unclear, but she said in 2019 that she was worth about $120 million.

abigail disney 2019
Disney speaking in New York in May 2019.Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation

"I'm roughly around $120m and I have been for some time now," Disney told the Financial Times.

She's said she's given away tens of millions of dollars over the past three decades.

abigail disney
Disney estimated in 2019 that she'd given away about $70 million in her lifetime.Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation

Speaking with The Cut in 2019, Disney declined to specify how much she'd inherited but said she'd given away roughly $70 million since turning 21 and planned to continue giving until her death.

Disney has also railed against private-jet use and expressed regret for taking them.

Private jet
Disney was arrested last year for her involvement in blocking traffic to an airport in the Hamptons to protest the use of private jets.JethuynhCan/Getty Images

In July, Disney and a group of climate activists were arrested while protesting private jets and their carbon emissions by blocking traffic at an airport in the Hamptons.

She recently recalled taking a private jet alone from California to New York years ago, despite knowing the flight was generating harmful emissions, "for no other reason besides my own selfish convenience."

"As I strapped myself into the aircraft's queen-sized bed for some shut-eye, I had an uncomfortable epiphany: this was wrong," she added.

She's called private jets "a cancer" and said she now flies commercial.

Disney has often spoken about the dangers of wealth inequality and is one of the most recognizable faces of the ultrarich's efforts to raise their taxes.

Abigail Disney in Washington DC at a podium with a banner that says "Tax The Rich"
Disney has frequently called for higher taxes for herself and other wealthy people.Tasos Katopodis

She's a member of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group that says it supports "public policies based on the 'first principles' of equal political representation, a guaranteed living wage for all working citizens, and a fair tax system."

She has repeatedly called for higher taxes on wealthy people like herself as a means of addressing economic inequality.

"We're creating a superclass so far above the vast majority of people that they don't share the same planet anymore," she said in 2019 of America's vast income inequality. "We've eroded all the paths to the American dream that my grandfather and great-uncle took."

That year she was one of 18 ultrawealthy Americans to sign a letter calling on 2020 presidential candidates to support a wealth tax. In 2022 she was one of more than 300 rich Americans who called on Congress to impose a surtax on millionaires' income.

"Paying more taxes would not affect our lifestyles, and we have the ability to pay more than we currently do," the letter said.

Beyond activism and philanthropy, Disney is a film producer.

Abigail disney
Disney cofounded a production company called Fork Films in 2007.Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for International Documentary Association

Alongside the filmmaker and producer Gini Reticker, Disney cofounded a media-production company called Fork Films in 2007.

The company's website says it has created original productions and funded more than 100 documentaries.

The company's first documentary, "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," centered on the grassroots activism of women in Liberia who fought for peace amid a bloody civil war.

Read the original article on Business Insider