In February 2022, former Disney CEO Bob Iger was on the outside looking in. He was two years into his retirement, and like all type-A personalities, he was getting restless. Then CEO Bob Chapek was systematically ruining everything Iger built and remained silent as the Florida Legislature debated passing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Iger was never one to shy away from controversial matters. According to the Washington Post, while Disney’s CEO, he got the Georgia governor to veto anti-LGBTQ+ legislation by threatening to stop filming in the state. Iger also quit then-president Donald Trump’s business advisory council, citing his concerns about climate change.
I'm with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy. https://t.co/fJZBzre4yM
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) February 25, 2022
And then Iger fired off a tweet, saying that if the bill passed, it would “put vulnerable young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.” Disney had not yet commented on the account, and according to a source, the bill “wasn’t on anyone’s radar.”
Iger’s tweet cut Chapek’s legs out from underneath him. The public admonishment forced the Walt Disney Company to respond and made it impossible for Disney to work behind the scenes to make changes to the law. When Chapek finally responded 11 days later, he looked weak and out of touch. Chapek’s time at Disney was over.
Related: Disney Busting Out ‘Legal Legend’ for Fight With DeSantis
A few months later, Bob Iger was back as Disney’s CEO, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had his foil to raise his national profile. However, this feud has high stakes for Iger and DeSantis, and neither can back down.
For Iger, he sees the feud with Florida Gov Ron DeSantis as a “major distraction” as he tries to make the Walt Disney Company profitable again. Under Chapek, Disney lost 40 percent of its value.
But now Iger is neck deep in this fight with Gov. DeSantis. Florida passed a law stripping the Reedy Creek Improvement District of its self-governing ability and replacing it with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Disney managed an end-round by stripping the new board of any power before it was even seated. Now Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District have lawsuits pending in federal court.
Dave Aronberg, a state attorney in Palm Beach Country, told the Post:
The mouse brought in the big guns. The problem with DeSantis’ case is that he and his supporters never tried to hide their true intentions. You can’t do any of this in retaliation.
For Governor DeSantis, the stakes are just as high. He had built his national brand on beating Disney, but Iger has proven to be a more than worthy opponent. DeSantis was embarrassed when Disney outsmarted his hand-picked board and even received criticism from his fellow Republicans.
With designs on the White House, DeSantis must continue this fight to its bitter end. Jeff Brandes, a former Republican state representative who was the lone GOP member to vote against dissolving Disney’s special district, said:
He (DeSantis) got himself into something that he doesn’t know how to get out of. The court case will get dragged out and in a couple of years, Florida will have a new governor who might not have the same vision that DeSantis has for picking this fight. And so everybody moves on.
In the meantime, this case is costing Florida taxpayers millions with no end in sight. But Jefferey Sonnefeld, a Yale management professor, summed up Iger best. “Iger never losses. He won’t miss his moment when it comes up.”
So, the war of egos continues with no end in sight.
We will keep you updated on this story at Disney Fanatic.