The Walt Disney Company used its annual shareholders’ meeting to levy some of its harshest language yet towards Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in their ongoing feud.
Disney CEO Bob Iger announced Monday that the company plans on investing $17 billion into Walt Disney World over the next decade. When a shareholder asked about the company’s opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law — and the subsequent reorganization pushed by DeSantis to replace the Disney-controlled government district covering Disney World with one controlled by DeSantis — Iger gave an uncharacteristically critical response.
“About a year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation and while the company may not have handled the position it took well, a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do…The governor got very angry about the position Disney took and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business.”
Referencing the planned $17 billion investment, Iger continued on to state, “Our point is that any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business but it sounds anti-Florida,” Iger said.
When DeSantis signed a bill in April 2022 to eliminate the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District, he did reference the company’s opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” law as motivation. “You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state?” DeSantis said, as reported by Florida Politics at the time. “We view that as a provocation and we’re going to fight back against that.”
While DeSantis succeeded in replacing the district with a new structure, called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, the old board had signed a long-term development agreement which may greatly limit the new board’s authority.
That agreement was discussed and passed in a public meeting before the new law had been signed. However, DeSantis has ordered Florida’s chief inspector general to conduct an investigation into the deal.
“These collusive and self-dealing arrangements aim to nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians,” DeSantis wrote in a letter released Monday.
Disney defended the deal last week, saying in an unsigned statement that, “All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law.”