Disney CEO Bob Iger hinted at a possible withdrawal of investment from Florida amid an ongoing battle with Governor Ron DeSantis, who continues to retaliate against the company. He said he is “accurately evaluating where it makes sense to focus future investments” in Disney’s theme park business.
“We certainly never expected to be able to defend our business interests in federal court given the relationship we have had with the state for 50 years,” Iger added.
To escalate the standoff between Disney and DeSantis, the company sued the state in April alleging that the Republican governor’s hand-picked oversight board voided an agreement that allegedly voided certain powers of the company’s now-dissolved special district. would have transferred back to Disney. It stressed that the filing of the lawsuit was a last resort to prevent the state from retaliating against opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans instruction on gender and sexuality through third grade .
Florida fired back in May with its own lawsuit in what has become a legal battle for control of the district overseeing development around the company’s theme parks. DeSantis accused Disney of cobbled together a series of “backroom deals” to allegedly maintain its competitive edge over other companies in the state and retain tax breaks.
On the earnings call, Iger attempted to set the record straight. He claimed that Florida maintains special districts, such as Reedy Creek, to encourage investment. “There are 2,000 special districts in Florida to encourage business and investment,” he said, pointing to a district operated by Daytona International Speedway. “It’s easy to say Reedy Creek benefits us, but it’s misleading not to say how it benefited the state of Florida.”
Disney paid more than $1.5 billion in taxes to Florida last year, making the company the state’s largest taxpayer, according to Iger, who emphasized that Disney pays more property taxes as a result of the special district and employing tens of thousands of residents for wages has. above minimum wage.
If the goal is to level the playing field, he said there needs to be a “uniform application” of how special districts are created. “There was no concrete attempt to dismantle Reedy Creek until we acted on legislation,” he said. “This is clearly a matter of retaliation.”
Iger concluded the earnings call with a message to DeSantis: “Does the state want us to invest more, hire more people, and pay more taxes or not?”
Disney has plans to invest more than $17 billion in its Florida theme park over the next ten years.