Disney Bob Iger Responds To Florida’s Actions Against Company

Disney CEO Bob Iger responded to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ measures against his company on Monday, telling Disney shareholders that the state’s recent actions were “anti-business.”

The state of Florida has taken steps to deprive Disney of some of its rights over the property that comprises and surrounds Disney World.

Florida’s move came after the corporation objected to legislation approved last year that limited talks of LGBTQ problems in Florida schools, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by opponents.

When asked about the fight during the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting, Iger delivered his most public defense of the company’s activities and blunt criticism of Florida’s conduct.

“Our point 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,” he said.

For over 50 years, Disney has exercised considerable land use control in and around its theme park. It did so through the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a self-governing group whose board members had close ties to Disney.

Nevertheless, following the struggle over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year, Florida attempted to disband the district, only to discover that such a move might leave local governments in central Florida with more than $1 billion in bond liabilities.

As a result, earlier this year, legislation that gave the state the right to choose board members instead was approved.

The new board revealed last week that the land-use powers of the renamed Orange County Tourist Oversight District had been stripped away before the law’s passage and given directly to Disney through an arrangement with Reedy Creek.

This sparked a new round of criticism from state authorities, particularly DeSantis, a prominent opponent of Disney’s activities.

Disney Bob Iger Responds To Florida's Actions Against Company

On Monday, DeSantis launched a state probe into the exiting board of directors of Disney’s special taxing district, his latest volley in the ongoing struggle with the entertainment behemoth.

In a letter to Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melina Miguel, DeSantis accused the Reedy Creek Improvement District board of “collusive and self-dealing arrangements” and specific ethical offenses for taking moves that appeared to hinder his efforts to take over the board.

Separately, DeSantis’ office stated that “all legislative options are back on the table” as his government works to reclaim authority and perhaps retaliate against Disney.

“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.’”

Redfern’s comments came before Iger’s comments at the shareholders’ meeting. Following Iger’s remarks, DeSantis’ office replied, “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.”

Disney took a position against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill after some Disney employees called on it to speak out against the legislation. Iger said Disney may “not have handled the position it took very well.”

“We love the state of Florida,” Iger said. “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 also always appreciated what the state has done for us. It’s been a two-way street.”

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But Iger argued it was inappropriate for the state to punish Disney for taking a stand.

“The firm has a right to free speech just like people do,” Iger remarked. “The governor became enraged by Disney’s stance, and it appears that he has decided to react against us… in effect, to seek to punish a firm for exercising a legitimate right.”

And that seems unfair to me – against any corporation or people, but especially against a company that means so much to the state where you live.”

Iger stated that Disney intends to invest $17 billion in Disney World over the next ten years, creating 13,000 new Disney employees and thousands of other indirect jobs, attracting more people to the state and increasing tax revenue.

Iger received follow-up questions from shareholders who questioned the company’s decision to oppose Florida’s law. One stakeholder questioned if it was “smart to take political opinions that satisfy a relatively small percentage of the population when our primary objective is entertainment.”

Another stakeholder condemned the business’s behavior: “Disney has transformed itself from a magical destination for children to an ideological company… progressively embracing the woke agenda.”

Iger responded that his job of what’s best for the company includes doing what’s best for its employees, allowing them to flourish. He said there are times when it weighs in on controversial issues because of the importance to employees and times he thinks it should not weigh in.

He said that he is sensitive to criticism, including by some of the shareholders at the meeting, that the company is “creating agenda-driven content,” but he denied that.

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

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