Wall Street Times

Bob Iger critical of Florida’s latest actions

Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos
Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos

Bob IgerFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis is currently at odds with Disney in an attempt to take the company’s unique political powers.

He was last spotted in Smyrna, Georgia, providing some updates:

“There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control, but rest assured, you know, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

“There’s more to come in that regard.”

Notwithstanding, Disney CEO Bob Iger has maintained his composure in the face of DeSantis’s attacks on the corporation.

He warned Disney investors on Monday that the state’s recent moves were anti-business.

What happened?

The state of Florida has made an effort to deprive Disney of some of its authority over the land, notably in the area around Disney World.

Disney made the decision in Florida after voting against legislation enacted in 2022 that would have limited the topic of LGBTQ issues in Florida classrooms.

The proposal has been called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents.

In response to Florida’s proceedings, Disney CEO Bob Iger issued his most public defense of the company’s activities to date, saying:

“Our point on this is that any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida.”

Disney’s land

Disney has wielded considerable sway over the region surrounding its theme parks for more than five decades.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District, a self-governing entity whose board members have close ties to Disney, is in charge of the power.

Following the 2022 dispute over the “Don’t Say Gay” law, Florida sought to dissolve the district.

They were aware, however, that the action would expose central Florida city governments to a more than $1 billion liability due to bond concerns.

Rather, in early 2023, it passed laws allowing the state to appoint board members.

The board

The new board announced on Monday that the (now renamed) Orange County Tourism Oversight District’s land-use authority was revoked before the law was enacted.

Instead, Disney was handed the site directly through a deal with Reedy Creek, sparking further criticism from state lawmakers.

In his latest move against Disney, DeSantis ordered a state probe into the departing board that administered the company’s special taxing district on Monday.

He denounced the Reedy Creek Improvement District board of racketeering and self-dealing deals in a letter to Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melina Miguel.

DeSantis also claimed specific ethical infractions for behavior that appeared to stymie his attempts to gain control of the board.

Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis’ office issued a statement implying that his government is searching for a method to regain control and maybe retaliate against Disney.

“Disney is again fighting to keep its special corporate benefits and dodge Florida law,” said DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern.

“We are not going to let that happen. As Governor DeSantis recently said, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.'”

The remarks were made before Bob Iger’s shareholder meeting speech.

In reaction to Bob Iger’s statements, DeSantis’ office issued the following statement:

“While a company has First Amendment rights, it does not have the right to run its own government and operate outside the bounds of Florida law.”

“The Florida Legislature and Gov. DeSantis worked to put Disney on an even playing field, and Disney got caught attempting to undermine Florida’s duly-enacted legislation in the 11th hour.”

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Disney and the bill

Disney’s resistance to the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation arose as a result of employee pressure.

According to Bob Iger, Disney may have mishandled its standing.

“We love the state of Florida,” said Iger.

“I think that’s reflected in not only how much we’ve invested over the last 50 years, but how much we’ve given back in jobs and community service, taxes, tourism, of course.”

“We’ve always appreciated what the state has done for us. It’s been a two-way street.”

Bob Iger, on the other hand, advised that the state not react against Disney because of its stance.

“The company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do,” said Iger.

“The governor got very angry about the position that Disney took, and it seems like he decided to retaliate against us… in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right.”

“And that just seems really wrong to me – against any company or individual, but particularly against a company that means so much to the state that you live in.”

Plans and questions

Disney expects to invest $17 billion on Disney World over the next decade, according to Bob Iger.

He claims that the investments will create 13,000 new Disney employment as well as thousands of other jobs, attracting more people to the state and creating tax revenue.

After Iger’s remarks, shareholders questioned the company’s stance on the Florida law.

One stakeholder questioned if it was prudent to take a political stance to appease a tiny group of individuals when the company’s primary objective is to deliver entertainment.

Another person criticized Disney’s actions, writing:

“Disney has turned from a place of magic for children to an ideological company… increasingly promoting the woke agenda.”

Yet, Bob Iger stated that doing what is best for his staff is part of his job.

He noted that he feels forced to speak in on difficult subjects because of the significance of the staff, and that there are times when he believes it is preferable not to.

Although Bob Iger has denied developing agenda-driven content, he has suggested that he is sensitive to criticism.

“While I know we’re never going to please everybody all the time… I want parents to be able to trust the content we’re creating for their children, and we’re committed to creating age-appropriate content for family audiences.”