For more than a year, The Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have been at extreme odds, and things have become downright hostile. The trouble started when former Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights In Education bill — also dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. From there, DeSantis fought back, saying Disney doesn’t run the state. The Florida Legislature then passed a bill dissolving the Reedy Creek Improvement Act, stripping Disney of its right to self-govern in the Sunshine State.
In November, Bob Chapek was fired and former CEO Bob Iger was brought back in. In the months he has been back, Iger has remained relatively quiet about the fight with Governor DeSantis. However, that silence came to an end during Disney’s Annual Shareholders meeting on April 3. During the meeting, Iger was asked about Disney’s fight with DeSantis, and he was very honest in his answer.
Iger acknowledged that Disney and Florida have a very long history. For the more than 50 years that Walt Disney World Resort has been open, Disney has become one of the largest private employers in the state. Disney has driven Florida tourism through the roof, bringing in 50 million visitors this year alone — 8 million of them being international. Iger also acknowledged what the state has done for Disney in the past.
That being said, Disney and its employees do have a constitutional right to speak their minds. Iger said that, while the company’s response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill may not have been handled as well as it could have been, it looked like Governor DeSantis was simply retaliating against the company. The retaliation started with the dissolution of Reedy Creek and continued with DeSantis hand-selecting a new board to oversee the area.
Mr. Iger also revealed that Disney has plans to invest billions more in Walt Disney World Resort, bringing thousands of more jobs to the state. That, in turn, would bring in more tourists and more money. Iger stated that “any actions that thwart these efforts simply to retaliate is anti-business and anti-Florida.” Mr. Iger said that the company will always take a stand on things that directly affect the company and its thousands of Cast Members.
DeSantis recently announced an investigation into a deal made by Reedy Creek board members before the new board was instated. The Reedy Creek board made a land deal with Disney, giving Disney the right to make nearly all decisions for the area until 21 years after the death of the youngest current descendant of King Charles III. Governor DeSantis said that the Chief Inspector General will be looking into any “legal or ethical” violations that were done by the former board.
The new Reedy Creek Board — now called the Central Tourism Oversight Committee — has also announced that it plans to sue Disney for deals made with Reedy Creek before they took over. Some of these agreements are in place for decades and say that the deal cannot be changed or undone, regardless of what future boards decide.