Disney CEO Bob Iger calls Ron DeSantis action ‘anti-business’ and ‘anti-Florida’


Disney CEO Bob Iger said Monday what he deemed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “retaliation” against the company was “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.” 

Answering a question during an online shareholders’ meeting, Iger said that Republican governor and the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature appeared to be retaliating against the company for exercising its constitutional rights. He referred to the incident last year when Disney criticized Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. while Bob Chapek was helming the company. 

“To seek to punish a company for the exercise of a constitutional right, that just seems really wrong to me,” Iger said during Monday’s call, according to Reuters. “These efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida.” 

The Parental Rights in Education Act bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as well as lessons deemed not age-appropriate. Disney initially stayed quiet on the legislation until Chapek faced internal pressure to speak out against it as LGBTQ workers and other employees staged large-scale walkouts. 


In response, Florida lawmakers passed, and DeSantis signed in February, legislation revamping the government-like board that oversees Walt Disney World’s 27,000-acre property outside Orlando. Among the changes the legislation made was that the Florida governor got to pick the five supervisors of the governing board instead of it being controlled by Disney, as it had been in its previous 55 years.

DeSantis on Monday ordered an investigation into the agreement between the previous Board of Supervisors of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) and Walt Disney World.

In a letter to Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel, DeSantis said the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board (CFTOB), appointed to replace the Reedy Creek Improvement District, recently uncovered that the previous board members immediately before the enactment of House Bill 9-B “attempted to enter into a last-minute development and restrictive covenant agreements” with Walter Disney World “designed to usurp the authority of the CFTOB board.” 

“These collusive and self-dealing arrangements aim to nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians,” DeSantis wrote. 

In the hours before the Florida House of Representatives approved a state takeover in February, the board – still under the control of Disney-allied appointees at the time – transferred many duties of the special district over to Disney’s control by invoking King Charles III in its attempt to stifle efforts by DeSantis to strip the company of its self-governance power in the state.

DeSantis on Georgia stage


According to developer agreements signed into effect on Feb. 8, the same day the Florida House passed legislation to control aspects of Disney’s land, the Reedy Creek Improvement District transferred most of its power to Disney for the next 30 years. The agreement – which gives Disney the ability to no longer seek board approval to construct complex projects or buildings at certain heights, as well as sell or assign development rights – used a royal clause dating back to 1692 in Great Britain.

DeSantis said in the letter to the chief inspector general that any legal or ethical violations should be referred to “the appropriate authorities.”

“Disney is again fighting to keep its special corporate benefits and dodge Florida law,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said in an email to The Associated Press. “We are not going to let that happen. As Gov. DeSantis recently said, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’”

Disneyland theme park

During the shareholders’ meeting Monday, Iger declared the company’s love for the state of Florida, noting it was the largest taxpayer in the state and employed around 75,000 workers. The company has plans to make $17 billion in investments at Disney World over the next 10 years that will create an additional 13,000 jobs, he said. 

Iger acknowledged that there may have been some missteps in how Disney initially responded to the Florida legislation but said the company, which is based in Burbank, California, had a right to free speech, just as individuals do.

During the question-and-answer period of the meeting, one attendee remarked that the company changed from “a place of magic for children” to an “ideological company serving the LGBTQ” community that pushed a “woke agenda,” Reuters reported. “Our primary mission needs to be to entertain… and to have a positive impact on the world,” Iger said in response to the criticism. “I’m very serious about that. It should not be agenda-driven.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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