ORLANDO, Fla. – Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger addressed the ongoing feud between the theme park giant and Ron DeSantis on Monday hours after the Florida governor fired back at the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, requesting an investigation into the former board.
“Any action that supports those efforts simply to retaliate for a position (Disney) took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Iger said in a shareholders meeting on Monday.
DeSantis set out to destroy Disney’s self-government after the company publicly challenged Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, back in March 2022 when Bob Chapek was still CEO.
“While the company may have not handled the position that it took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech, just like individuals do, and obviously in taking the position, the governor got very angry about the position Disney took, and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business, in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right,” Iger added at the meeting.
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Since then, DeSantis eliminated Disney’s control over the Reedy Creek Improvement District and renamed it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, appointing five new members and bringing the “corporate kingdom” to what he thought was an end.
Nearly a month later, it was learned that Disney made a last-minute deal with the former Reedy Creek board, giving the company widespread power over the special district, a move that led DeSantis to order a thorough state investigation be launched on Monday.
“These collusive and self-dealing arrangements aim to nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians,” the governor’s letter read, in part. “In addition, based on initial observations of counsel, the RCID board’s actions appear to suffer from serious legal infirmities, including, among other things, inadequate notice, lack of consideration, improper delegation of authority, and ethical violations, such as conflicts of self-interest and self-dealing.”
Iger said it seems “really wrong” for DeSantis to punish and call out a company that loves and provides so much for the state of Florida “in the form of jobs and community service taxes... tourism, of course, and all sorts of other responsible business practices.”
“We have over 75,000 employees which I noted in my opening, countless, thousands, of indirect jobs have been created. About 15 million visitors will go through our gates this year alone, about 8 million of them from outside the U.S. and we are the largest taxpayer in the state,” Iger said.
He also added the company is planning to invest more than $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next 10 years.
DeSantis’ formal request for his office’s Chief Inspector General to investigate the Reedy Creek Improvement District and its adherence to state civil and criminal laws and ethics requirements was sent Monday.
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