Disney CEO Threatens DeSantis With Pulling Disney World Investments, Tax Dollars Out of Florida

in Disney, Walt Disney World

Sad DeSantis and CEO Bob Iger, smiling, on the front, World Disney Castle in the background

Credit: Inside the Magic

Hours after the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board voted to give itself more control over Reedy Creek-area property, including Walt Disney World Resort, Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke out about the battle against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

During The Walt Disney Company’s quarterly earnings call, Iger was asked about his concerns regarding the Disney Park’s future in Central Florida. “I’ve got a few things I want to say about that,” he began.

Iger argued that the lawsuit filed against DeSantis by The Walt Disney Company made its position very clear, though he didn’t comment on DeSantis’s countersuit.

“This is about one thing and one thing only,” Iger said. “That’s retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation. And we believe that in us taking that position, we were merely exercising our right to free speech.”

Governor DeSantis on the left, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the right representing Disney
Credit: Inside the Magic

The conflict with DeSantis began last March after former Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against The Parental Rights In Education Act, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“This is not about special privileges or a level playing field or Disney, in any way, using its leverage around the state of Florida,” he continued. Iger argued that the thousands of other special districts given to businesses and organizations around Florida, like the Daytona Speedway and The Villages retirement community, would be undergoing the same level of government oversight if DeSantis was uniformly applying the law.

“There’s also a false narrative that we’ve been fighting to protect tax breaks as part of this,” Iger said. “But in fact, we’re the largest taxpayer in Central Florida, paying over $1.1 billion in state and local taxes last year alone. We pay more taxes, specifically more real estate taxes, as a result of that special district.”

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger in front of Cinderella Castle

Iger reiterated The Walt Disney Company’s plan to invest $17 billion in Florida over the next five years and touted that it pays 75,000 Disney Cast Members well over state minimum wage.

“We’re proud of the tourism industry that we created, and we want to continue delivering the best possible experience for Guests going forward,” he said. “We never wanted and we certainly never expected to be in the position of having to defend our business interests in federal court, particularly having such a terrific relationship with the state as we’ve had for more than 50 years.”

He finished with a straightforward question for Gov. DeSantis: “Does the state (Florida) want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes or not?”

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