As the endless War of Disney World Independence rages on in Disney World, Bob Iger has thrown the next punch. During the Disney corporation’s second quarter earnings call on May 10, the CEO publicly addressed the ongoing legal situation for the first time since the company filed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his repeated attempts to destroy their theme park’s special tax district.
“Regarding Florida, I got a few things I want to say about that bill,” Iger said on the call. “First of all, the case that we filed last month, made our position and the facts very clear, and that’s really that this is about one thing and one thing only, and that’s retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation.”
Disney filed its lawsuit against DeSantis on April 26, after over a year of back-and-forth between the company and the governor over Disney World’s special tax district status. The lawsuit stated that DeSantis and other Florida lawmakers have violated Disney’s constitutional rights by engaging in a “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” against Disney over former CEO Bob Chapek’s criticism of the controversial Don’t Say Gay Bill (even though this criticism came after Disney donated money to sponsors backing the bill).
On the earnings call, Iger made the point that DeSantis’ efforts to control the special tax district of Disney World is targeted specifically at the company, rather than the thousands of other special districts in Florida. Disney World has been under a special tax district since 1967, which was formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District and was controlled by a board appointed by Disney; in February, the district was renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, with DeSantis appointing the new board members.
“There are about 2000 special districts in Florida, and most were established to foster investment in development,” Iger said during the call. “We build a business that employs over 75,000 people and attracts 10s of millions of people to the state. So while it’s easy to say that the Reedy Creek special district that was established for us over 50 years ago benefited us, it’s misleading to not also consider how much Disney benefited the state of Florida. And we’re also we’re not the only company operating a special district.”
“This is plainly a matter of retaliation while the rest of the Florida special districts continue operating basically as they were,” Iger continued. “And I think it’s also important for us to say our primary goal has always been to be able to continue to do exactly what we’ve been doing there, which is investing in Florida.”
This is the second time that Iger has addressed DeSantis’ efforts to control Disney World; in April, during a shareholders meeting for Disney, he called the attempts to weaken Disney’s self-taxing status as “anti-Florida,” noting that the company invests billions of dollars into Florida’s economy each year.