The legal war between Disney and Florida is over

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The legal war between Disney and Florida is over
  • Disney World and Florida have settled their legal dispute.
  • The feud began after Disney execs opposed DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had appointed his own board members to oversee Disney’s land. 

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Bull

The yearlong beef between Disney’s CEO Bob Iger and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is over.

The board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District — which was DeSantis hand-picked to take control of Disneyworld’s special tax district — agreed on Wednesday to settle the state lawsuit brought by Disney.

The feud between DeSantis and Disney began in 2022, after Disney executives publicly opposed the governor’s bill that restricted discussions of gender and sexuality in state classrooms, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.

DeSantis responded by signing a new law that allowed him to appoint board members to oversee Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special tax district on which Disneyworld sits.

But just before DeSantis’ allies took over the board, Disney’s outgoing board members passed an agreement stripping the board of much of its power, effectively hamstringing DeSantis’ incoming board.

Over the months that followed, Iger and DeSantis exchanged jabs.

DeSantis proposed building a competing state theme park or a prison near Disney, or taxing the hotels and placing road tolls around the amusement park. Meanwhile, Iger called DeSantis “anti-Florida” and painted him as vengeful.

Now, as part of the Disney-proposed settlement, Disney will agree to return power to the DeSantis-appointed board, which can now have a say in development plans and expansion.

The settlement lets the company continue its separate federal lawsuit against DeSantis. In that suit, Disney accused DeSantis of violating the company’s free speech rights.

A federal judge dismissed the suit in January, and Disney will continue its appeal process, though the company will try to delay the case as it negotiates a new development agreement with DeSantis’ board.

The settlement also instructs the tourism board to consult with Disney as it reviews and amends planning documents for the Disney World site.

At the tourism board’s meeting on Wednesday, Vice Chair Charbel Barakat praised the settlement.

“With this settlement, which is complete and significant, we are eager to work with Disney — I’m certainly eager to work with Disney and all other businesses — to make the country’s tourism destination famous for a second reason, which is: good government,” Barakat said.

In a statement, Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said the deal “opens a new chapter of constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district and serves the interests of all parties by enabling significant continued investment and the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunity in the State,” according to the Associated Press.

For his part, DeSantis has made his fights with Disney a part of his failed 2024 presidential bid, bringing up his battles with the company on the campaign trail.

He was criticized by his opponents, though, with Donald Trump saying his line of attack was a “P.R. plan” that “fizzled” and Nikki Haley condemning him for potentially hurting an important part of Florida’s economy.

On the flip side, Iger has been denounced for keeping up the fight. Earlier this week, proxy adviser Egan-Jones sided with activist investor Nelson Peltz, who is trying to gain two board seats in a shareholder vote next week.

In a nod to the back and forth between Disney and Florida, the firm cited Disney’s “unnecessary and extremely dangerous entrance of the company and its management into the killing fields of the culture wars.”

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