Disney, Florida Gov. DeSantis-backed board reach settlement in lawsuit

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Disney and a Central Florida tourism board backed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reached a settlement Wednesday in a lawsuit over who controls the special governing district that encompasses the Walt Disney World Resort.

Members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District approved the settlement, which will bring an end to a court battle that has lasted for nearly two years. 

“We are glad that Disney has dropped its lawsuits against the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and conceded that their last-minute development agreements are null, void, and unenforceable,” Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ communications director, said in a statement. “No corporation should be its own government. Moving forward, we stand ready to work with Disney and the District to help promote economic growth, family-friendly tourism, and accountable government in Central Florida.”

The dispute began after Disney’s criticism of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act – derided by critics as the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill – prompted the DeSantis administration to revoke the special Disney-controlled tax district that gave the entertainment autonomy over its theme parks in the region.

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“We are pleased to put an end to all litigation pending in state court in Florida between Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District,” Walt Disney World President Jeff Vahle told FOX Business in a statement. 

“This agreement 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,” Vahle added.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DIS THE WALT DISNEY CO. 119.93 +0.57 +0.48%

The settlement between Disney and the board ends all pending litigation in Florida state court between the two entities.

The board appointed by DeSantis in the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which replaced the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District, filed a lawsuit last year to invalidate an agreement to invalidate “backroom deals” favorable to Disney that were made by the Reedy Creek board prior to its termination and replacement.

The new board’s lawsuit argued the agreement with Disney was a one-sided deal that was rubber-stamped by the outgoing board.

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Disney World entrance

“The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District was created to bring public accountability and transparency to one of Florida’s most important destinations,” the board’s vice chair Charbel Barakat told FOX Business in a statement. 

“We’re proud of the landmark work the District has accomplished and look forward to what lies ahead. With this agreement, we’re eager to work with Disney and other businesses within Central Florida to make our destination known for world-class attractions and accountable governance.”

FOX Business’ Andrew Mark Miller and Reuters contributed to this report.

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