Disney’s CEO Issues Not-So-Veiled Threat To DeSantis

Disney CEO Bob Iger criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) in a call with investors this week, saying that the company’s “ugly feud” with DeSantis could prompt Disney to rethink investing billions of dollars in the state.

Not quite a year ago, then-CEO Bob Chapek issued a standard news release on the passing of the Parental Rights in Education bill (sometimes incorrectly termed the “Don’t Say Gay” measure by its critics). The press announcement Disney issued in response to the law was not very harsh, and the business took no additional action in response to the law.

As DeSantis brags in his book, the Florida legislature passed a package of bills at his behest that first attempted to repeal Disney’s special taxing district, the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), in its entirety while renaming it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) and taking the authority to appoint board members away from the Disney-affiliated landowners and giving it to the state.

The economic impact of Mickey Mouse on Florida is truly monumental when one takes into account the tens of thousands of “cast members” Disney directly employs and the many more operated by related businesses, as well as Disney’s enormous impact over decades in attracting tourists to Florida, all of whom contribute to gas taxes, sales taxes, Tourist Development Taxes, and so on while they are here.

For this reason, DeSantis’s animosity toward Disney has caught many by surprise. In their complaint against the governor and the puppet board members, he nominated to CFTOD, the company’s attorneys made multiple allusions to the apparent punitive motive in comments by DeSantis and his associates. 

They also pointed out that a similar tactic was not used against any of the state’s hundreds of other special taxation districts.

Many politicians and commentators have urged that Walt Disney leave Florida and move to another state, but few areas have the year-round sunshine that made Central Florida so desirable to him in the first place. More likely, though, is that investment in the state would be discontinued or curtailed.