Disney’s Bob Iger Touts Florida Lawsuit Settlement, Future Investment

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger touted as a “win-win” the recent settlement of litigation with the Ron DeSantis-appointed special district board that oversees the company’s Florida theme park properties.

At the company shareholders meeting Wedenesday, Iger said that the settlement “will actually enable us to pursue the kinds of significant investment in our Florida parks.” During a long battle with DeSantis, Iger had previously raised some doubts about the company’s continued investments in its Florida properties. Iger also said that the investments will support “thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunity” in the state.

Last week, the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District approved a settlement with the company. Disney 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 now be null and void. The DeSantis-selected district board had sued the company in state court to challenge their validity.

Disney has not yet settled federal litigation that the company has against DeSantis over his move to strip the company of control of the theme park district. The company sued the governor, claiming that his actions were retaliation after Disney came out against parental rights legislation, known by detractors as the “don’t say gay” law. A federal judge tossed out the case earlier this year, but Disney has agreed to defer court briefing of its appeal, as negotiations continue on a new development agreement between the company and the oversight district board.

For a time, DeSantis had made his battle with Disney a feature of his presidential campaign, as he attacked the company for being too “woke.” Those attacks dissipated as his campaign faltered.

The company, meanwhile, settled the litigation just as it was facing a proxy fight with a dissident group of shareholders. According to preliminary results announced at today’s meeting, Iger beat back the efforts, led by Nelson Peltz, to install himself and a former Disney executive, Jay Rasulo, on the board.

At the meeting, Disney shareholders also defeated a series of proposals that reflected ongoing culture war battles. One proposal, from the progressive Educational Foundation of America, took aim at the company’s contributions to politicians who opposed climate change measures, supported anti-abortion laws and embraced Donald Trump’s stolen election conspiracy theories, Another proposal, brought by the conservative National Legal and Policy Center, called on the company to pay for gender de-transitioning care. A third, from the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research, called for the company to disclose charitable contributions of $5,000 or more on their website. The group accused the company of trying to pursue an agenda via contributions to groups like The Trevor Project and GLSEN. 

In response to one shareholder question, Iger said that the company is “committed to telling stories that reflect the world around us, and using those stories to entertain people from all walks of life.” He added, “We know our job is not to advance any kind of agenda. So as long as I am in the job, I am going to continue to be guided by a sense of decency and respect, and we will always trust our instincts.”

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