Here's How Disney Played Florida's Ron DeSantis

March 29, 2023, 11:02 PM · Ever since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took over the board that maintains local government control of land upon which the Walt Disney World Resort sits, I have been trying to figure out why Disney seemed to have rolled over and allowed DeSantis to do that.

Disney seemed to have a solid legal case against the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which the Florida Legislature established back in the 1960s, after Disney bought tens of thousands of acres in Central Florida. Yet Disney filed no legal attempt to stop DeSantis and his allies in the Legislature from replacing Reedy Creek with the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

The new district is officially charged with everything Reedy Creek did, except that its board is appointed by the Florida governor rather than elected by the residents of the district. Since only Disney determines who gets to live in the district, that effectively gave Disney control of the district for the past 50-some years.

But now that DeSantis' cronies are in charge, they have discovered why Disney did nothing to keep them from taking over. That's because Disney left them next to nothing to do.

On February 8, just before the Legislature passed the bill creating the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District to replace Reedy Creek, the Reedy Creek board passed a "Declaration of Restrictive Covenants" that essentially gives Walt Disney Parks and Resorts complete control over the development of all property within the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, without any subsequent board being able to reverse the designation.

The new board also can't use the Disney name or any character likeness, either.

Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel has posted the document online, if you would like to read it for yourself.

Disney issued the following statement: "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."

And here is the truly delicious part - which has gone viral since it was announced. The Covenants remain in effect until 21 years after the death of the last remaining currently living descendent of King Charles III.

Now we don't know yet whom that might be, but King Charles' youngest current descendent is 21-month-old Montecito, California resident Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor. Given how old her great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother lived to be, it's probably a safe bet that Lilibet, her brother, and her three cousins over in the United Kingdom will be around much longer than Ron DeSantis will.

The new board is hiring outside lawyers to see if it has a case to fight Disney over the Covenants - a fight that would be paid for by Florida taxpayers.

Good luck with that. So as it stands now, it's Bob Iger - 1 and Ron DeSantis - 0 for control of the Walt Disney Company's operations in Florida.

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Replies (30)

March 29, 2023 at 11:21 PM

That King Charles descendent thing sounds made up, I had to read it a few times! Even checked the calendar if it's April Fools yet.

March 30, 2023 at 12:02 AM

People who can't control their ego always end up shooting themselves in the foot at some point.

March 30, 2023 at 12:26 AM

Disney’s attempt to circumvent will not stick. The hunt is on and in the end Disney will continue to decline. Playing politics will do that.

March 30, 2023 at 5:41 AM

This is great news for a company that could use some. It’s wonderful to see the Florida Fascist hoisted by his own petard. And while I don’t approve of the extraordinary amount of power corporations have in American politics, I do appreciate the rare occasion when one takes a stand against evil. Well played, Disney!

March 30, 2023 at 7:05 AM

A couple of things:

First, if the new pseudo RCID board decides to fight this in court they will have to use public funds to pay the attorneys making their case. Public funds should only be used if the expenditure delivers some benefit to the public. How do Floridians benefit from the removal of the "Declaration of Restrictive Covenants"?

Second, the Governor seems to have a choice. First, ignore the "Declaration of Restrictive Covenants" and just carry on -- which would essentially end any additional headlines related to Reedy Creek. Or fight Disney and run the risk of losing in court -- which would generate worldwide headlines ("Disney defeats DeSantis") right smack in the middle of the 2024 election.

Your move, Ron.

March 30, 2023 at 9:21 AM

Delicious indeed Robert! lol

Normally I wouldn't be cheering for a large company to be doing this kind of stuff but when the government is that corrupt and the reasons for doing it in the first place are so disingenuous then I'm all in! Go Disney! :)

March 30, 2023 at 10:29 AM

America is cursed with our far-right wingnuts, but blessed because they are largely idiots.

Ron DeSantis is a sad, hateful little man, I applaud his continued failure.

March 30, 2023 at 11:07 AM

Oh my God, the "last descendant of Charles III" bit made me laugh out loud, beautiful.

March 30, 2023 at 11:48 AM

disney remained very quiet throughout this whole scheme so you knew they were up to something...i said from the beginning desantis was playing with fire because there was no way he was going to outmaneuver the mouse. yesterday, he got mickey'd hard.

March 30, 2023 at 12:53 PM

Incidentally, another unique dimension to the Disney vs. DeSantis thing is the law firm working on behalf of the new pseudo RCID board. It seams that the Governor's office hired law firm to write the actual legislation that reworked the whole RCID model. So the legislature votes for the bill written by that law firm (who was paid with public money) and the Governor signs the bill and picks the new pseudo RCID board members.

And at the board's very first meeting ya know what they do? The vote in favor of retaining the same law firm to provide legal assistance to the new pseudo RCID board.

March 30, 2023 at 1:13 PM

By the way, I have to give it up for blogger Tom Bricker who (regarding the protestations of the brain trust that makes up the current pseudo RCID board) wrote: "Moreover, I wouldn’t trust the assertions of board members who, as recently as this month, did not know how to accomplish the most basic component of the job that they were appointed to do. These individuals not knowing about the existence of an agreement does not make it unlawful, unusual, or suspect. I’ve never visited Massachusetts, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist."

March 30, 2023 at 1:48 PM

Michael Scott said it best:

“Well, well, well. How the turntables…”

March 30, 2023 at 2:13 PM

The more coverage I read of this story the funnier it gets. It reminds me of the camp counselors that constantly get one-upped by Wednesday in Addams Family Values. Or of literally any of the prank calls to Moe’s on the Simpsons

March 30, 2023 at 2:43 PM

As a one-time political science nerd and a certified theme park outsider, I'm fascinated by this whole situation. The existence of RCID always struck me as weird and suspect, and this latest turn is even wilder. I know the public debate around this will boil down to Disney vs. DeSantis, but right now I feel like Toby in that episode of The Office where he gets excited about a particularly strange, legally questionable thing Michael does, because even though it's probably gonna result in a trial, it's unprecedented and it'll be fascinating to watch.

March 30, 2023 at 3:09 PM

Always a key thing to remember: If he really wants to run for President, under Florida law, DeSantis has to resign as Governor first. So this is more paying to the base for the future but still laughable how bad he is at this.

March 30, 2023 at 3:52 PM

.....and here I thought the new season of Sucession was good.

March 30, 2023 at 3:51 PM

@mikeW, actually the legislatures have said they are considering, if not secretly doing so currently, to change the law for that very reason. Being that Devil DeS is starting to make his rounds around the country, he knows more than we do at this time.

March 30, 2023 at 10:40 PM

3 of the 5 board members are lawyers. One has served on the boards of several NYSE companies, another specializes in business litigation, the third is a land-use attorney. Highly unlikely they were hoodwinked by this agreement. If anything, they probably helped craft it. The arrangement gives Desantis his triumphant moment, allows Disney to keep the status quo, and special interests and lawyers benefit. Politics as usual and when the media moves on next week the whole mess will be swept under the rug.

March 30, 2023 at 11:33 PM

Disney's unwillingness to fight any of this makes me believe that they must have viewed Reedy Creek as a burden and are secretly relieved to see the state take over.

March 31, 2023 at 7:25 AM

There is now chatter that Disney and the board are looking to work this out. I doubt this issue ever sees the inside of a courtroom.

March 31, 2023 at 9:19 AM

Well played, Disney. Well played. The King Charles Clause? Watching the board read that out loud was pretty fun. Due diligence it it's finest.

March 31, 2023 at 12:28 PM

Good grief, people. There’s obviously nothing legal about what Disney did. A special district is essentially like a homeowners association. An HOA can create a bunch of convoluted rules that private entities within that association have to abide by. That does not apply to the state or government. Your desire to make it a big loss for DeSantis and cheering Disney’s corporate shenanigans is hilarious and hypocritical.

March 31, 2023 at 1:15 PM

Smclaugh99: "Good grief, people. There’s obviously nothing legal about what Disney did."

Me: If it's not legal, what law did Disney break?

March 31, 2023 at 2:17 PM

>>Disney's unwillingness to fight any of this makes me believe that they must have viewed Reedy Creek as a burden and are secretly relieved to see the state

Exactly. Who wants to be responsbile for the potholes, fire department, ambulance, etc. What they want is the right to build what they want, where they want. They kept that.

March 31, 2023 at 2:33 PM

I didn’t say Disney broke a law. Just that what they did does not pass legal muster. It is the equivalent of using your third wish to wish for unlimited wishes. That’s not how it works. However, since they did create this hullabaloo, it will take money and lawyers to fix it. But the corporate media, and those on the left are sure running with the ‘DeSantis got pwnd’ narrative.

March 31, 2023 at 6:38 PM

Per your daddy DeSantis yesterday, “There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control, but rest assured, you ain’t seen nothing yet. They basically got everything they wanted for the many decades they’ve been operating in Florida – until now, because now there’s a new sheriff in town.”

March 31, 2023 at 2:57 PM

I for one am anxiously awaiting that DeSantis-influenced Disney+ content that his appointed board will be working on!

March 31, 2023 at 3:31 PM

MLGA - Make Lucasfilm Great Again

March 31, 2023 at 7:26 PM

truly nothing funnier than the dude whose only claim to military service is as a lawyer trying again and again to evoke machismo to rile up the base. what a goober.

April 4, 2023 at 3:58 PM

Smclaugh99: "I didn’t say Disney broke a law. Just that what they did does not pass legal muster."

Me: According to which judge.

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