James Gilbert/Getty Images; Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
- Disney CEO Bob Iger says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ actions against the company were “anti-business.”
- Disney and DeSantis have been embroiled in a bitter feud over a law known as “Don’t Say Gay.”
- Iger told shareholders on Monday that the governor is retaliating against Disney.
Disney CEO Bob Iger blasted Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent actions against the company at its shareholders’ call on Monday, calling them “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
Disney has been embroiled in a public spat with the state in recent months after DeSantis introduced new legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans teachers from educating children about sexual orientation and gender identity through to the third grade. Disney came out in opposition to the bill in March 2022 and vowed to help have it repealed.
Disney CEO Iger on Monday accused the Sunshine State’s governor of retaliating against Disney and attempting to punish it by stripping Disney of its special tax status.
Iger said Disney had contributed jobs, community service, tourism, and “all sorts of other responsible business practices” to Florida, claiming that the company was the state’s largest taxpayer.
“Any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” Iger said.
Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek was initially slow to respond to the bill despite mounting pressure to denounce it, angering both the public and its staff who accused the company of side-stepping the issue. Chapek ultimately spoke out against the legislation in March 2022.
Its denunciation of the bill fueled a battle between the company and DeSantis, leading to Florida’s legislature voting to strip Disney of the special tax status it had benefitted from since 1967 that allowed it to control property taxes, fire protection, and road maintenance, among other services.
DeSantis signed the bill repealing the status last April, and in February 2023 he officially stripped Disney World of its self-governing status by replacing the Reedy Creek Improvement District – which Disney had got to appoint most of the board members to because it owned the majority of the district’s land – with the state-run Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
“The governor got very angry about the position Disney took, and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business, in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right,” Iger said on Monday.
“That just seems really wrong to me, against any company or individual but particularly against a company that means so much to the state that you live in,” he continued.
But DeSantis’ control over the district could be limited: Disney lawyers quietly wrote an agreement that may render the state-appointed board members powerless for decades. DeSantis has asked Florida’s inspector general to look into whether Disney executives, staff, or agents had anything to do with the loophole.
Iger, who had served as CEO between 2005 and 2020, was reappointed to the role for a two-year term in November after Chapek was ousted.