War over the corporate kingdom: DeSantis' new board spars for control with Disney

War over the corporate kingdom: DeSantis' new board spars for control with Disney

Gov. Ron DeSantis' new board controlling aspects of Disney World's land says the company attempted an 11th hour change to rules governing the property.


A board appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to run a district overseeing Disney World looks to be headed for a legal fight with the corporate giant.

In the hours before the Florida House of Representatives approved a state takeover, the board — still under control of company appointees — transferred many duties of the special district over to Disney's control.

"The Executive Office of the Governor is aware of Disney's last-ditch efforts to execute contracts just before ratifying the new law that transfers rights and authorities from the former Reedy Creek Improvement District to Disney," said a spokesperson for the governor’s office, Taryn Fenske.

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According to developer agreements signed into effect Feb. 8, the same day the Florida House passed legislation to control aspects of Disney’s land, the Reedy Creek Improvement District transferred most of its power to Disney for the next 30 years.

The governor was not aware of the agreements made by the former board before putting his stamp on the new district, according DeSantis’ office. However, they were passed by the board during a public meeting that included public hearings.

"An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law," Fenske said. "We are pleased the new Governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney's past behavior."

The moves were not widely discovered until a Wednesday meeting of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Special District.

"I can’t think of a more naked attempt to circumvent the will of the voters and the will of the Florida Legislature and the will of the governor," new board member, Brian Aungst Jr., said.

"This development agreement, which in my opinion is void … was passed the same day the Florida House passed the bill creating this board, and it was done to prevent us from doing our job," he continued. "That is offensive to me."

Disney said in a statement, "All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida Government in the Sunshine law."

The new board hired two outside law firms as it weighs litigation.