The Walt Disney Co. has filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor. If Ron DeSantis is successful, it could reverse much of the recent history.
The lawsuit was filed on April 26 in the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Florida. It names DeSantis as a defendant, along with Acting Secretary of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Meredith Ivey and Central Florida Tourism Oversight District administrator John Classe. Also named are five board members: Martin Garcia, Michael Sasso Jr., Brian Aungst Jr. Ron Peri, and Bridget Ziegler.
Disney's lawsuit claims these violations
Disney claims that the state has violated the Contracts Clause as well as the Takings Clause. The Due Process Clause is also a violation. If successful, Disney will seek to declare Senate Bill 4C (which aimed at dissolving Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District) and House Bill 9B (which replaced the previous bill and created a new district board in its place).
This could mean that Disney's original Reedy Creek Improvement District and its board composition -- which gave Disney the power to name board members -- could be restored. According to the lawsuit, the reinstatement of the board is closely linked to Disney's future growth. The lawsuit also claimed that it would bring back land development contracts and agreements entered into by state leaders in February, days before the creation of the new board. This would give Disney final say and strip the board of its power.
Disney's complaint stated that it was seeking relief from the court to enable it to continue its long-held plans. Disney also understands that it has the resources necessary to stand up against state retaliation, a position smaller businesses or individuals may not be able take when the State is after them because they expressed their own opinions. In America, you cannot be punished for expressing your opinion.
I don't believe the lawsuit has merit. DeSantis said, 'I think it's a political issue', during a press conference in Jerusalem. He is currently overseas on foreign trips.
A legal expert weighs in with his opinion on what Disney is trying to achieve by suing DeSantis, among others.
Jacob Schumer, a government-law expert and attorney at Maitland's Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand PA, said to OBJ that the Disney lawsuit went far beyond simply trying to salvage their agreements.
Schumer stated that Disney was not just trying to maintain its contracts, but also fighting to regain the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Schumer and others have been anticipating a lawsuit of this nature since April last year, when the State announced its initial plan to dissolve Reedy Creek District. The analysis remains the same, and there's no doubt that Disney will be able to prove retaliation. It is a question of whether federal courts will decide that they do not have the authority to stop this because of the subjective intent of legislation and the state makeup of the subdivisions.
No one from Disney, DeSantis or the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board, nor Ivey, could be reached for comment.
Reedy Creek Improvement District, now replaced, was the 39-square mile governing jurisdiction as well as special taxing district that Walt Disney World Resort created in 1968. It had the same authority and responsibilities of a county government.
Disney has a lot of properties in Orlando.
Walt Disney World, the largest employer in Orlando, is owned by The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS). It has four theme parks located locally: Magic Kingdom. Epcot. Animal Kingdom.
Walt Disney World is the number one visitor attraction in Orlando. More than 50 millions people have passed through its gates over the past few years, many of them repeat visitors.
Disney owns Blizzard Bay and Typhoon Lagoon as well as themed hotels, golf clubs, timeshare properties and a residential area called Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort. It also has ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney Springs and a number of themed hotels.
Disney lawsuit details