Disney CEO Bob Iger lashed out at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, calling his recent actions against Walt Disney Co. “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
The state has taken action to strip the entertainment company of some of the power it has over the land that includes and surrounds Disney World.
This is in response to Disney’s criticism of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law that seeks to limit school instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for pupils aged nine and under.
But Iger said it was wrong for the state to retaliate against Disney for taking its position. “The company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do,” Iger said.
In February, DeSantis signed a bill that subjects Disney to additional layers of external oversight through a five-member board, now appointed by the state.
“The governor got very angry about the position that Disney took, and it seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including naming of a new board to oversee property and the business. In effect, to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right,” Iger said.
“Our point on this is that any action that supports those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” he said.
However, last week, DeSantis’ newly appointed board revealed that the previous Disney-allied board signed a last-minute contract.
That contract gives Disney near total control over development in the district in perpetuity or until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England”.
DeSantis and his allies called the new agreement an attempt to “usurp” and defy the will of Floridians and lawmakers. The governor has ordered an investigation into the outgoing board.
Disney, however, has said that all actions have been legal, and the agreement was discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Sunshine Law.
“Disney is again fighting to keep its special corporate benefits and dodge Florida law,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said. “We are not going to let that happen. As Governor DeSantis recently said, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’”