Disney Tries to Stick It to Florida but Forgets Who It's Messing With

Asher Heimermann, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Walt Disney Corporation (TWDC) just doesn’t know when to give up in its fight with the state of Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). Just a few weeks ago, the state rescinded the nearly 60-year-old law that gave Disney quasi-governmental autonomy over its property in the form of the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). Now, Disney is fighting back with a series of covenants and development agreements that would theoretically tie the hands of the board that the state has appointed to take the place of Disney’s RCID board.


The Orlando Sentinel reports that the 151-page document purports to strip much of the authority from the new board, which the state government appointed, and leaves it in Disney’s hands.

A development agreement allows Disney to build projects at the highest density and the right to sell or assign those development rights to other district landowners without the board having any say, according to the presentation by the district’s new special legal counsel.

Disney and its affiliates own the vast majority of the land in the district, and other companies have operated there with the corporation’s blessing.

The development agreement bars the board from regulating the height of buildings, which would be solely under the purview of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The previous board also agreed to give Disney vast authority over its own buildings, according to its declaration. The agreement states that Disney must review any exterior changes to the district’s buildings to ensure consistent “theming” with Disney World.

The agreement has an open-ended expiration clause that borders on parody, claiming to expire “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England living as of the date of this declaration.”


“All agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” read a statement from TWDC about the matter.

Related: What’s the Latest in the Battle Between DeSantis and Disney?

Members of the board that DeSantis put in place after the state rescinded the RCID charter have expressed their displeasure at Disney’s shenanigans.

“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” board member Brian Aungst Jr. told the Sentinel. “It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”

“This essentially makes Disney the government,” admitted board member Ron Peri. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”

As we should expect, the state of Florida isn’t giving up the fight.


The board agreed to hire “lawyers that have extensive experience in dealing with protracted litigation against Fortune 500 companies,” in the words of new board chair Martin Garcia, to go through the agreement and find weaknesses to exploit and loopholes to take advantage of.

Those lawyers include attorneys from Cooper & Kirk, among them DeSantis’ Naval Justice School classmate Adam Laxalt, and the firm Lawson Huck Gonzalez, which boasts Alan Lawson, a retired Florida Supreme Court justice, as a partner.

“The Executive Office of the Governor is aware of Disney’s last-ditch efforts to execute contracts just before ratifying the new law that transfers rights and authorities from the former Reedy Creek Improvement District to Disney,” said Communications Director Taryn Fenske in a statement. “An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law. We are pleased the new Governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”

One of those loopholes could be the bizarre reference to King Charles III.


“What it looks like to me [is that] because Disney has the Magic Kingdom, they thought they could be king for a day,” Garcia told the Sentinel.

The state may have even more tricks up its sleeve — not to mention the public relations and social media advantage that DeSantis and the state government have — so pop some popcorn because this fight is far from over.


Trending on PJ Media Videos

Join the conversation as a VIP Member