Weeks before DeSantis takeover, Disney gave itself new powers over special Orlando district, document shows
Just weeks before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new, hand-picked board to take over Disney’s long-held special governing district in Orlando, the entertainment giant created a declaration that said any changes to the district must be made to benefit Walt Disney World.
The development threatens to reignite the spat between DeSantis and Disney. The disagreement reached a tipping point last year amid Disney’s opposition to a state law banning the teaching of gender and sexual orientation to students from kindergarten to third grade.
The Feb. 8 document, first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, grants Disney “prior review and comment” over any changes made to properties in the district, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District and now known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
That document also states that the declaration shall be enforceable ‘in perpetuity’ or, if that is deemed unenforceable, ‘until 21 years after the death of the last surviving descendants of King Charles III, King of England.”
According to the BBC, these ‘royal lives’ clauses date to the 17th century, though are rarely used.
NBC affiliate WESH of Orlando reported Tuesday that, while the document was created more than a month ago, the new oversight board members only just found out about it.
“I can’t think of a more naked attempt to circumvent the will of the voters and the will of the Florida Legislature,” new member Brian Aungst Jr. said according to the station. “That is offensive to me.”
New board chairman Martin Garcia said challenging the document would likely result in “protracted litigation,” and suggested the case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, the affiliate reported. The board voted to hire two outside law firms to look into the legal challenges, it said.
In a statement, a representative for DeSantis said his office was aware of what it called Disney’s ‘last-ditch efforts’ to give itself ‘new rights and authorities’ in advance of the special district’s change in status.
‘An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law,’ said communications director Taryn Fenske. ‘We are pleased the new Governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”
Representatives for the Walt Disney Co. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.