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Disney And Ron DeSantis-Selected District Board Reach Settlement As Company Proxy Battle Looms

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A Governor Ron DeSantis-selected special district board the oversees The Walt Disney Co.‘s Florida theme park properties has settled its litigation with the company.

“We are pleased to put an end to all litigation pending in state court in Florida between Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District,” Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement. “This agreement opens a new chapter of constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district and serves the interests of all parties by enabling significant continued investment and the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunity in the State.”

The board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Distruct approved the agreement in a meeting today.

The settlement does not apply to litigation that the company has against DeSantis over his move to strip the company of control of the theme park district. Disney has filed a notice of appeal after a federal judge tossed out the case, in which the company claims that DeSantis violated its First Amendment rights. DeSantis championed the effort to install his own members to the special district board after Disney came out against a parental rights bill, known by its detractors as the “don’t say gay” law.

As part of the settlement, Disney has agreed to set aside a set of development agreements it entered into with the special district in the final weeks before DeSantis’ allies took control. Those agreements, which ensured that the company would maintain considerable autonomy over its properties, will not be null and void. The DeSantis-selected district board had sued the company in state court to challenge their validity.

Meanwhile, Disney has agreed to defer briefing of its appeal in the federal case as negotiations continue on a new development agreement between the company and the board.

Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ communications director, said in a statement, “We are glad that Disney has dropped its lawsuits against the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and conceded that their last-minute development agreements are null, void, and unenforceable. No corporation should be its own government. Moving forward, we stand ready to work with Disney and the District to help promote economic growth, family-friendly tourism, and accountable government in Central Florida.”



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