Disney CEO Bob Iger: 'Retaliation' by Florida governor is 'anti-business,' 'anti-Florida'
Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, publicly addressed the ongoing fight between The Walt Disney Company and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday, referring to the state's actions as "anti-business" and "anti-Florida."
Iger made the comments during the company's yearly shareholders meeting in response to a shareholder's question.
"Let me address this issue, which I haven’t really done much publicly, but I’d love the opportunity to put it all into perspective," Iger said. "We love the state of Florida – and I think that’s reflective in not only how much we’ve invested over the last 50 years, but how much we’ve given back in terms of jobs, community service, taxes…tourism of course, and all sorts of responsible business practices. We’ve also always respected and appreciated what the state has done for us. It’s kind of been a two-way street."
"A year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation, and while the company may not have handled the position they took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do, and obviously in taking the position, the governor got very angry about the position Disney took, and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us," Iger said.
Disney publicly came out against the proposed Parents Rights in Education Act – since been signed into law – which limits lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation in elementary school curriculums in Florida.
After that action, DeSantis was critical of Disney and the Legislature passed a bill that sought to eliminate the Reed Creek Independent District, which essentially governs Disney and its property in Florida.
The bill that was ultimately signed did not eliminate the district, but renamed the district to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and allowed DeSantis to replace the board, which he did.
"Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end," Gov. DeSantis said during a press conference at the time.
However, last week, the new Board told reporters that the previous board signed a surprise development agreement with The Walt Disney Company that essentially stripped the new board of its power. That board has since retained lawyers, which means the next battle could be in court.
Gov. DeSantis also sent a letter on Monday to Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel asking her to open a "throughout review and investigation" into the actions of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District.
"Based on initial observations of counsel, the RCID board's action appear to suffer from serious legal infirmities, including, among other things, inadequate notice, lack of consideration, improper delegation of authority, and ethical violations, such as conflict of interest and self-dealing," DeSantis wrote.
You can read the letter below.
On Monday, Iger said Disney plans to invest more than $17 billion at Walt Disney World over the next 10 years, which were projected to create more than 13,000 jobs at Disney and thousands of indirect jobs.
"So, our point on this, is that any actions that thwarts those efforts – simply to retaliate for a position the company took – sounds not just anti-business, it sounds anti-Florida. And I’ll just leave it at that," Iger said.
The Governor's Office released a statement on Tuesday in response to Iger's comments:
"While a company has First Amendment rights, it does not have the right to run its own government and operate outside the bounds of Florida law. The Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis worked to put Disney on an even playing field, and Disney got caught attempting to undermine Florida's duly-enacted legislation in the 11th hour."