Disney caves, settles lawsuits with DeSantis

by | Mar 27, 2024

The Walt Disney Company and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, have resolved a nearly two-year legal dispute by agreeing to declare previous development agreements as “null, void, and unenforceable,” ending all pending litigation.

In a resolution that closes nearly two years of legal disputes, The Walt Disney Company and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, an entity backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, have reached a settlement.

Under the agreement, announced during the Oversight District’s board meeting on Wednesday morning, both parties agreed that previous development agreements are “null, void, and unenforceable,” paving the way for new negotiations that will facilitate Disney’s future development plans. The agreement now concludes all pending litigation in state courts between Disney and the state-backed board.

The initial conflict arose when Disney publicly criticized Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, leading the governor to revoke Disney’s special governing privileges over its theme park district.

“Everything we’ve done has been in the best interests of the state of Florida, and we have been vindicated on all those actions,” DeSantis said on Wednesday. “Going forward, we’re going to continue to govern with the best interests of the state of Florida. I’m glad that they were able to do that settlement.”

In further remarks, DeSantis signaled an interest in “moving forward to make this region very strong,” attributing much of Disney’s legal action to its California executives.

“Some of that stuff was really driven by Burbank,” he said. “It was not driven by Orlando. And I think we’ve always understood that … so I think there’s a desire to move forward. They have opportunities to expand their footprint to continue to attract visitors, and those things can coincide with the state. We think that that’d be good. So I think the board will work with them.”

Last year, DeSantis signed legislation that stripped Disney’s control of Reedy Creek, officially renaming it as the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District,” and granting the governor the power to appoint its Board of Supervisors. Disney subsequently accused the governor of political retribution, filing lawsuits at both the state and federal levels.

While DeSantis condemned Disney as a “woke” corporation after it publicly opposed a law that restricts instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, state legislators worked to revamp Reedy Creek, responsible for overseeing government services at Disney World.

Lawmakers ratified legislation to replace the five Disney-elected members with governor-appointed ones, disrupting a system that allowed Disney to govern its Florida theme parks and resorts autonomously for more than 50 years.

Florida officials, and particularly the governor, repeatedly stated that the changes “level the playing field” so that Disney is now “subject to the same laws and regulations as all other companies in Florida.”

Reedy Creek was created by the Florida state legislature in 1967 to provide local government services for the Walt Disney World resort. Until the changes, the district maintained its own government, with powers similar to those of a county government, and was responsible for providing services such as fire protection, building inspection, and waste management within its jurisdiction.


%d bloggers like this: