Before allies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took over Disney World’s governing district in March, previously controlled by Disney
supporters, the board reached an agreement in February with the company to prohibit types of businesses from ever being operated on the property.
Some of those businesses included tattoo parlors, liquor stores, adult entertainment, oil refineries, gun stores or ranges, bowling alleys, trailer parks, nursing homes, marijuana dispensaries, doctors’ offices and anything taller than four stories. However, there was no mention of prisons, according to the Associated Press, something that DeSantis mulled building on Disney property back in April.
“I think the possibilities are endless,” DeSantis said about building a competing theme park or state prison.
That February agreement, which DeSantis’ allies say stripped them of power by giving Disney control of design and construction of the theme park resort, is at the center of dueling lawsuits between the DeSantis-appointed board and Disney, as well as a new law seeking to rescind the deal that the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed last week.
Disney and DeSantis have been locked in an ongoing feud for the last year stemming from when the entertainment conglomerate publicly opposed the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“I do not view this as a going-to-mattresses situation for us,” Iger told Time Magazine in April about his company’s tit-for-tat battle with DeSantis and Florida. “If the governor of Florida wants to meet with me to discuss all of this, of course, I would be glad to do that. You know, I’m one that typically has respected our elected officials and the responsibility that they have, and there would be no reason why I wouldn’t do that.”
“Don’t Say Gay” bars instruction about and even mention of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade as well as other lessons deemed not age-appropriate. DeSantis had previously said Disney “crossed a line” by attacking the bill. Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill was ultimately signed by DeSantis and is now law.
Disney, which employs over 70,000 people in Florida, issued this statement following the signing of the bill last year: “Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”
Iger has said in that DeSantis was acting in an “anti-business” manner with his retaliation against Disney.
Representatives for Gov. DeSantis’s office did not say if he would be willing to have a meeting with Iger.
Several well-known Republicans including former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and Chris Christie have criticized DeSantis for feuding with Disney. Trump said DeSantis is “being absolutely destroyed by Disney” and Pence said the Florida governor going after Disney’s tax status is “beyond the scope of what I, as a conservative limited government Republican would be prepared to do.”
Both Pence and DeSantis are considered likely candidates for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, although neither has formally announced an intention to run at this point. Trump has already announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination.
Iger returned as Disney CEO after two-year hiatus in 2022, and has made some structural changes in the high-profile entertainment part of the company’s business. Iger said they company will be more selective about future Star Wars movies, wondered if certain Marvel characters warranted as many sequels and said the future of streaming platform Hulu is still up in the air.
Disney announced it will off 7,000 people before the beginning of summer as part of a “strategic realignment” of the company.
Disney shares have gained 16.18% year to date, but have fallen 4% over the past 12 months, compared to the S&P 500’s
7.57% gain in 2023 and 4.95% increase over the past year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.