Disney sues DeSantis and board of trustees after vote to overturn special tax zone agreement | CNN Politics (2023)


Walt Disney Parks and Resorts sued Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his hand-picked oversight committee Wednesday, accusing the 2024 Republican presidential nominee of using his political power as a weapon to punish the company for exercising its right to free speech .

The lawsuit was filed in federal court minutes after the council's nominationDesantisSpecial tax district overseeing Disney in an attempt to wrest power from the entertainment giant has been declared invalidreached an agreementIn February, just before the board was dissolved, a conflict arose between Disney and the previous board.

"What they've created is absolute legal chaos, okay? It's not going to work," said Martin Garcia, chairman of the Central Florida Tourism Regulatory District, who was handpicked by DeSantis.Supervisory Board.

Wednesday's move is the latest escalation in the battle between DeSantis and Disney as he heads toward a presidential run in 2024.

Disney responded by suing DeSantis, the board, and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity acting secretary Meredith Ivey in an attempt to block the board's action.

(Video) Disney SUES DeSantis For Legislation TARGETING Disney World - DSNY Livestream

The lawsuit described Wednesday's vote as the "latest assault" in a "targeted government retaliatory campaign" that Governor DeSantis orchestrated every turn as punishment for Disney's protected speech.

It said DeSantis' retaliation "now threatens Disney's business, jeopardizes its economic prospects in the region and violates its constitutional rights."

"Disney is in this unfortunate position because it expresses views that the governor and his allies do not like. Disney would like things to be resolved differently," the lawsuit said. But Disney also knows it's lucky to have the resources to stand up to state retaliation, and smaller companies and individuals may not be able to take that stand when states hold them accountable for the express their opinion." not standing up for you you are punishing for your thoughts. "

The board will take action on Wednesday, and board members had expected to argue at previous meetings about why they thought the deal was invalid. In March, the board hired a team of law firms to represent the district in "potential legal challenges" with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, suggesting DeSantis appointees expect the battle to go to court.

Disney CEO Bob Iger alluded to the entertainment giant's lawsuit against the government when he told shareholders earlier this month that "corporations have the same right to free speech as individuals."

"The governor is so angry with Disney's position that it seems as if he has decided to retaliate against us... Basically to punish a company for exercising its constitutional rights," Iger said. "In my opinion, this is wrong for any company or person, but especially for a company that means a lot to the state you live in."

The battle is now going to court, with Disney seeking an injunction in its 77-page lawsuit that prevents the board of directors from exercising the powers DeSantis and the Republican-led legislature are trying to bestow on it.

(Video) Disney v. DeSantis | Lawyer Reacts

“We are not aware of any legal right for companies to run their own government or maintain privileges that no other company in the state has,” said Taryn Fenske, director of communications for DeSantis. "This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their desire to undermine the will of Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law."

At a press conference in Jerusalem on Thursday, DeSantis criticized Disney's lawsuit against him, saying the company "doesn't want to pay the same taxes as everyone else."

"I don't think the lawsuit has merit. I think it's a matter of politics," DeSantis said, accusing the entertainment giant of being "disturbed that they really have to play by the same rules as everybody else."

The year-long battle has strained the longstanding relationship between the Florida government and the state's most prominent employer and tourist attraction. Earlier this month, DeSantis suggested the state could build a competing prison or theme park on land controlled by Disney.

Florida governor's contest with Disney has become a flashpoint in the early stages of the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Former President Donald Trump and a host of other candidates and potential rivals, including former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, have criticized DeSantis' actions, calling them anti-business.

After several business owners, including those who operate restaurants and bars in Disneyland, urged the board to work with Disney in a hearing, Garcia said the board would seek to raise taxes to cover legal costs to support its proposed assess and combat demand. It's called a "last minute deal".

"Because it's going to cost us money, and we're going to have to raise taxes to pay for it," Garcia said.

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The Board of Supervisors for the Central Florida Tourism Regulatory District was appointed by DeSantis and earlier this year, along with its allies, took over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special tax district that has given Disney control over the land surrounding it for half a century. power plant. Florida theme park.

But before DeSantis' hand-picked board was in place, Disney struck a deal with the outgoing board in February that left the agency seemingly powerless to rein in the entertainment giant. The DeSantis administration was unaware of the agreement for a month and vowed to retaliate after it became public.

The agreements Disney made with the previous board secured the company's development rights throughout the region for the next 30 years and, in some cases, prevented the board from taking major action without prior approval from the company. One of the rules prohibits the new board from using Disney's "fantasy characters" "21 years after the death of the last surviving descendant of King Charles III of England."

Their development deal was approved at two public meetings held two weeks apart earlier this year. According to the minutes, no one from the governor's office was present at any of the meetings.

At Wednesday's meeting, the board's special counsel, Daniel Langley, discussed his legal case for canceling the agreement between Disney and the former board.

He said the board had not made the required announcement of its meeting because the agreement had not been formally approved by two municipalities in the region, Belek and Lake Buenavista.

It also argued that previous changes to Disney's comprehensive long-term plan had not been properly reviewed and approved by the two cities.

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"The bottom line is that a development agreement has to be approved by the jurisdiction's governing body, and that doesn't happen in cities that have jurisdiction," Langley said.

"The old board was trying to act without legal authority," said former Florida Supreme Court justice Allen Lawson, an attorney hired by the district.

"It's basically about what it means to live and work in a country with the rule of law. Everyone has to abide by the same rules," he said. "Disney has publicly and legally been granted a unique and special privilege - the privilege to run its own government for a period of time. That era is over."

Decades-long deal ends

The state legislature created the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967, effectively giving Disney the power to control municipal services such as electricity, water, roads and fire protection around the Central Florida theme parks, while Walt Disney and his builders did not . t exists. But the zone also frees Disney from red tape and lowers borrowing costs to fund infrastructure projects around its theme parks, among other notable benefits.

The special arrangement, while sometimes criticized, has been largely protected by state politicians because both Disney and Florida have benefited from the tourism boom.

The improbable rift in Florida's relationship with its most iconic company began last year with a contentious debate over state legislation restricting certain classroom instruction about sex and gender identity. Then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek grudgingly opposed the bill under pressure from employees, prompting DeSantis to criticize the company. When DeSantis signed the bill into law, Disney announced it would push for it to be withdrawn. DeSantis then took aim at Disney's special governing powers.

For DeSantis, who has built his brand of politics by going head-to-head with what he sees as "awakened" corporations, the latest twist could undermine a central pillar of his narrative as he lays the groundwork for a possible presidential run. His new autobiography has an entire chapter devoted to Disney, and the saga has featured prominently in his campaign speeches across the country in recent weeks.

(Video) Updated debt ceiling deadline, mysterious balloon over Hawaii, more | Prime Time with John Dickerson

This story has been updated with more reporting.


Why did Disney sue DeSantis? ›

Disney sued DeSantis and the oversight panel last Wednesday in U.S. district court in Tallahassee, Florida. The company asked to effectively restore its control over the special tax district that has allowed it to self-govern its Orlando-area parks' operations since the 1960s.

What legal jurisdiction is Disney in? ›

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), formerly the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), is the governing jurisdiction and special taxing district for the land of Walt Disney World Resort. It includes 39.06 sq mi (101.2 km2) within Orange and Osceola counties in Florida.

Does the government own Disneyland? ›

The Disney World resort in Central Florida consists of four theme parks, countless hotels, waterparks, golf courses, a shopping and nightlife district, and even its own public transit system. But Disney World isn't just a resort. It's its own government.

Is DeSantis running for president? ›

Is Ron DeSantis running for president in 2024? The short answer is “Yes.” Insiders say he's privately discussed his campaign plans “without any caveats that would suggest he's still deciding.”

Why did Disney buy in Florida? ›

In 1964, Walt Disney began secretly buying millions of dollars worth of Central Florida farmland. As vast areas of land were purchased in lots of 5,000 acres here, 20,000 there -- at remarkably high prices -- rumors flew as to who needed so much land and had the money to acquire it.

Does Disney own the land in Florida? ›

It all started in 1965, when, looking to parlay the success of Disneyland into another year-round theme park, Walt Disney and his business partners purchased 27,000 acres (approximately 40 square miles) of land in Orlando, Florida.

Does Disney own a town in Florida? ›

The Town of Celebration, Florida is a community founded by the Walt Disney Company in 1996. Today, however, all properties in the community are privately owned. It is in Osceola County west of the City of Kissimmee and about 20 miles southwest of downtown Orlando.

What is the discrimination case against Disney? ›

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts was sued Monday in Florida Middle District Court over alleged disability-based employment discrimination. The lawsuit was brought by Richard Celler Legal on behalf of a front desk concierge at Disney's Old Key West Resort.

What percentage of Disney does China own? ›

The Walt Disney Company owns 43 percent of the resort; the majority 57 percent is held by Shanghai Shendi Group, a joint venture of three companies owned by the Shanghai government.
Shanghai Disney Resort.
OwnerShanghai Shendi Group (57%) The Walt Disney Company (43%)
WebsiteOfficial website
7 more rows

Can Disney move out of Florida? ›

While Disney could pick up and move some of its businesses from Orlando to another state, Disney World and its other theme parks aren't going anywhere. Moving all the infrastructure, including hotels, restaurants and shops as well as transportation to move guests around, just wouldn't be feasible.

What country owns Disney? ›

The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney (/ˈdɪzni/), is an American multinational, mass media and entertainment conglomerate that is headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California.

How many times can a Florida Governor be elected? ›

How long does the Governor serve and can he or she serve more than one term? The governor holds the office for four years and can choose to run for reelection. The Governor is not eligible to serve more than eight years in any twelve-year period.

Can DeSantis run for Governor in 2026? ›

Incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis will be term limited through the state's constitution and cannot run for reelection to a third term.

Who holds the supreme executive power in the state of Florida? ›

The Governor is the supreme executive power in the state. Article IV, Section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution provides that “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, commission all officers of the state and counties, and transact all necessary business with the officers of government.”

How much of Florida's economy is due to Disney? ›

In fact, when you add it all up, the Orlando tourism economy, of which Disney sits at the center, has a gigantic impact on the Florida economy. A 2019 study by Oxford Economics found that Orlando-area tourism generated $75.2 billion in economic impact for central Florida — about $1,000 for every tourist.

How much of Florida's economy is Disney responsible for? ›

A 2019 study found Disney dominates the Central Florida tourism industry, according to Oxford Economics, and produced: $75.2 billion annual economic impact for Central Florida. 463,000 jobs. $5.8 billion in additional state tax revenue.

How much of Florida is owned by Disney? ›

They can have their own lake with the amenities of a getaway spot.” While there's no official confirmation, it's estimated that Disney owns roughly 30,000 acres in Central Florida.

What does Reedy Creek allow Disney to do? ›

Key Facts. Walt Disney World is governed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which functions like a county government and takes care of things like roads, construction permits, fire services, building codes, water and waste collection, among other infrastructure concerns.

Is Disney buying land in Texas? ›

As of 2022, Disney has no plans to build a theme park in Texas.

What is happening with Reedy Creek? ›

The NEW District

Earlier in 2023, the Florida House and Senate passed a bill to give the Reedy Creek District its new name — The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District — as well as redistribute power to a Governor-appointed board.

Is there a city under Disney? ›

The utilidors have been referred to as an "underground city", the functions of which include: Waste removal: The Magic Kingdom uses an automated vacuum collection (AVAC) system for waste removal. Custodians remove trash from the park twenty-four hours a day, then dump it into AVAC system processors throughout the park.

Where is Disney relocating in Florida to? ›

It's been a while, but we haven't forgotten about Disney's big move to Central Florida. In 2021, Disney bought nearly 60 acres of land in Lake Nona near Orlando to create a new campus for employees.

Does Reedy Creek pay taxes? ›

Tax benefits stay intact

Because Reedy Creek, not Disney, owns the garages, they could be built with tax-exempt bonds, and the materials purchased without paying sales taxes.

What is the controversy with Disney? ›

Disney has been criticized for limiting and stereotyping LGBT representation in its media, with LGBT topics previously being deemed not "family-friendly" to address directly by Disney while villains were often portrayed as queer-coded through gender non-conformance.

What was the unethical scandal with Disney? ›

On May 28, 1941, the Screen Cartoonists Guild called a strike, and hundreds of animators walked out on Disney. Brazenly violating Disney's copyright, the strikers repurposed Disney characters into pro-union spokesmen and paraded outside theaters playing Disney films.

How many lawsuits have Disney lost? ›

4 Times Disney LOST Million-Dollar Lawsuits | the disney food blog.

Who is Disney's biggest shareholder? ›

Investors should note that institutions actually own more than half the company, so they can collectively wield significant power. We note that hedge funds don't have a meaningful investment in Walt Disney. Looking at our data, we can see that the largest shareholder is The Vanguard Group, Inc.

What country does Disney make the most money from? ›

Revenue of the Walt Disney Company from 2010 to 2022, by region (in million U.S. dollars)
CharacteristicUnited States and CanadaEurope
9 more rows
Nov 30, 2022

What company owns most of Disney? ›

Disney is owned by many shareholders, as it's a publicly traded company. According to CNN Business News, the Vanguard Group, Inc. is the largest shareholder of Walt Disney Co. with a 7.49% stake.

Does Disney check if you are a Florida resident? ›

A: You'll need to provide proof of a Florida residential address in order to purchase a Florida Resident park ticket or annual pass. For each ticket or pass purchased for an adult, you may provide any of the following: Valid Florida driver's license (must have a Florida address)

Is it possible to live on Disney property? ›

This magnificent resort-style community offers whole ownership of custom single-family homes at Walt Disney World® Resort. Celebrate traditional European and Caribbean styles steeped in the timelessness of Old Florida architecture while you enjoy the contemporary comforts and amenities of resort living.

Can you leave Disney land? ›

You are free to leave Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park and re-enter throughout the day. The only way you would not be able to reenter the theme parks is if they were at capacity which typically only happens around the holidays.

Does Disney own Starbucks? ›

The Starbucks stores located inside the theme parks are operated by Disney via a licensing agreement with Starbucks.

Why doesn t Disney own Tokyo Disneyland? ›

It is owned by The Oriental Land Company, which licenses intellectual property from The Walt Disney Company. Tokyo Disneyland and its companion park, Tokyo DisneySea, are the only Disney parks in the world not owned or operated by The Walt Disney Company in any capacity.

Does China own part of Disney company? ›

Similar to the Hong Kong property, Shanghai Disneyland is owned by a partnership between the Walt Disney Company and the government of China. This partnership is called Shanghai Shendi Group. In this case, Disney owns 43% and China 57%. Park operations are tasked to a management company that is 70% owned by Disney.

Who is the longest serving governor in US history? ›

List of longest-serving governors of U.S. states
#GovernorTime in office
1Terry Branstad8,169 days
2George Clinton7,635 days
3George Wallace5,848 days
4Jerry Brown5,847 days
74 more rows

Can a governor serve three terms? ›

Finally, the governors of the following states and territory are limited to two terms for life during a person's lifetime period: Arkansas, California, Delaware, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Oklahoma.

Has Florida ever had a female governor? ›

As of January 10, 2023, 18 states have never had a female governor: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Who is favored to win 2024 presidential election? ›

Top 5 Candidates, 2024 US Presidential Election
1️⃣ Joe Biden+15040.0% ↓
2️⃣ Donald Trump+25028.6%
3️⃣ Ron DeSantis+60014.3%
4️⃣ Robert F. Kennedy Jr.+20004.8% ↑
5️⃣ Kamala Harris+20004.8%
4 days ago

What is DeSantis ethnicity? ›

DeSantis is Italian American; all of his great-grandparents were born in Southern Italy. His paternal grandfather was Daniel DeSantis, born in Beaver, Pennsylvania, to parents Nicola DeSantis and Maria Nolfi.

Can you be governor and president at the same time? ›

II, Sec. 1, cl. 7). However, the Constitution places no restrictions that would prevent state or local office holders from simultaneously holding office in any branch of the federal government.

Which branch is the most powerful in Florida? ›

The legislative branch is considered to be the most powerful of the state's three branches of government.

Who controls the real executive powers in the United States? ›

The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Who are the ultimate power holders of the US government? ›

President - The president is the head of state, leader of the federal government, and Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces. Vice president - The vice president supports the president.

Does Disneyland have its own jurisdiction? ›

The Florida legislature granted the park extreme, unilateral control over their land. In 1965, Walt Disney began buying land for a new theme park in Florida.

Does Disney have their own judicial system? ›

While Disneyland just relies on Anaheim and Orange County for its court services, Walt Disney World has its own court system: the Reedy Creek Courts.

Does Disney have a legal department? ›

Gutierrez serves as the chief legal officer of the Company, overseeing its team of attorneys responsible for all aspects of Disney's legal affairs around the world, and acting as a strategic advisor to executive leadership and the Board of Directors.

What county does Disney fall under? ›

Much of the resort is in southwestern Orange County, with the remainder in adjacent Osceola County. The property includes the cities of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake which are governed by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (formerly Reedy Creek Improvement District).

What would happen to Florida if Disney left? ›

There is a solar system of businesses dependent on Disney and its guests. Besides the more than 25 hotels owned by Disney, hundreds of other hotels depend on theme park revenue. Without Disney World, arguably, there would be no Universal Studios, Sea World, Legoland, and others that draw people to Florida.

Will Disney move out of Florida? ›

While Disney could pick up and move some of its businesses from Orlando to another state, Disney World and its other theme parks aren't going anywhere. Moving all the infrastructure, including hotels, restaurants and shops as well as transportation to move guests around, just wouldn't be feasible.

How much of Florida does Disney own? ›

They can have their own lake with the amenities of a getaway spot.” While there's no official confirmation, it's estimated that Disney owns roughly 30,000 acres in Central Florida.

What is the new law in Florida about Disney? ›

May 4 (Reuters) - Florida's Senate on Thursday passed a bill that will allow a tourism board appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to cancel development agreements its predecessor body signed, the latest salvo against the Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) from the conservative leader.

Does the Chinese government own Disney? ›

Similar to the Hong Kong property, Shanghai Disneyland is owned by a partnership between the Walt Disney Company and the government of China. This partnership is called Shanghai Shendi Group.

Do the Chinese own Walt Disney? ›

The Walt Disney Company owns 43 percent of the resort; the majority 57 percent is held by Shanghai Shendi Group, a joint venture of three companies owned by the Shanghai government.
Shanghai Disney Resort.
OwnerShanghai Shendi Group (57%) The Walt Disney Company (43%)
WebsiteOfficial website
7 more rows

Can law enforcement carry guns at Disney? ›

Disney Law Enforcement Gun Policy

are allows at their parks. This does include off-duty law enforcement. Disney has police patrolling their premises and SWAT units that practice sporadically. Due to crowds at Disney, it is understandable that you may feel uncomfortable without carrying.

Is Walt Disney an FBI agent? ›

Disney's intel was so valuable that he was made 'Special Agent in Charge Contact' by the FBI in 1954, signifying that Disney was an individual who was capable of providing resources to the FBI and taking care of PR issues as well.

What is the Disney rule of perpetuity? ›

The Rule Against Perpetuities sets the time limit that an interest must vest as life plus 21 years. If there is a possibility that the interest will not vest within life plus 21 years, the transfer would violate the Rule Against Perpetuities.

Why did DeSantis dissolve Reedy Creek? ›

Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday that removes Walt Disney World's self-governing Reedy Creek Improvement District. This comes after the company opposed the Parent Rights in Education Law, also known as the "Don't Say Gay" law.


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