DeSantis Board Has New Evidence Disney Mismanaged Taxpayer District

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waving inside of a frame with the Cinderella Castle and the Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue to the right.

Credit: Edited by Inside The Magic

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board of directors, appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, is now using a statement from a Disney shareholder group as evidence that the company mismanaged the former Reedy Creek Improvement District where Walt Disney World is located.

The former Reedy Creek signage inside of Magic Kingdom Disney Park in Disney World with Ron DeSantis looking shocked.
Credit: Inside The Magic

Yesterday, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board held a meeting in which chair Martin Garcia claimed that the Walt Disney Company had failed to pay required fees during the decades that it controlled the special tax district and that the rest of the area had suffered as a result. Part of the evidence that Garcia brought was a letter from Ancora Holdings, an investment management firm that holds significant shares in Disney (per Deadline).

Reportedly, Martin Garcia read aloud from the letter, saying, “A degree of shareholder-driven change is certainly warranted in Disney’s boardroom following an extended period of absentminded governance, ineffective succession planning, polarizing actions and sustained value destruction. While it has been argued that challenges largely stem from the tenure of Bob Chapek, the Board was in the driver’s seat before, during and after that time.”

Bob Chapek Named in new Lawsuit against Disney Company. Bob Chapek on the right and Disney World Picture with Disney logo on the left
Credit: Inside the Magic

Related: DeSantis Board Accuses Disney of ‘Millions’ in Bribery

The board chair cited this statement from a Disney shareholder as evidence that the company’s management of its own assets and actions was representative of its alleged mismanagement of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. Martin Garcia followed his reading with his own statement, saying, “That is the poor governance that we were experiencing in this district. Disney controlled the old Reedy Creek board, and so it’s a trickledown effect. As the shareholders of Disney currently recognize, there is a leadership problem there, and that trickled down to the old board.”

To give some context to the DeSantis board’s accusations against the Walt Disney Company, it should be clarified that Ancora’s letter was specifically in support of a potential proxy attack from Trian Fund, an activist investor group led by billionaire Nelson Peltz and backed by Ike Perlmutter, the former chairman of Marvel Entertainment who was abruptly ousted from the company earlier this year.

Former Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter against company logo
Credit: Marvel/Inside the Magic

Garcia seems to be using the Ancora letter as evidence that shareholder allegations of “absentminded governance” naturally led to decades of mismanagement and financial damage to the area surrounding Walt Disney World. More concretely, the letter supports Peltz and Perlmutter’s attempts to seize seats on the Disney board rather than anything specific to the former Reedy Creek. Other stockholders, like Blackwells Capital, have called for Peltz and Perlmutter to abandon their attempts, calling it a “misguided and ego-driven campaign to seek board representation.”

Related: New DeSantis Tax District Moves Forward Toward Erasing Disney World

The battle between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company has been raging for months now, with the presidential hopeful making it a key part of his campaign speeches and public image. It has also led to multiple lawsuits in both state court and federal court and the dissolution of the tax district around Walt Disney World, now known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

Governor Ron DeSantis looking surprised by the Walt and Mickey statue at Disney World
Credit: CBS/Inside the Magic

The DeSantis appointees on the board are currently trying to get a judge to throw out a number of contracts affecting the former Disney district, which allow the company to retain much of its authority in the area. We’ll have to see if the kind of “evidence” that Martin Garcia cited will affect the judgment.

Do you think the company may have mismanaged the district around Walt Disney World? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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