According to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the newly elected tourism monitoring board is said to have had most of its authority taken away by Walt Disney World’s top brass, who has requested the state’s inspector general to look into the matter.
A quasi-government organization headed by a board of senior Disney executives, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, has been in charge of the Orlando property where Disney World is located since 1967.
In February, DeSantis signed a measure that effectively abolished the district and established the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD).
CFTOD members charged Reedy Creek board members with signing a contract with Disney that handed the firm complete control over the theme park’s grounds last month. According to the new board’s members, the agreement’s signing undercut its power.
DeSantis claimed that the Reedy Creek board signed the deal intentionally and unethically “to usurp the authority of the Central Florida Tourist Oversight District board” in a letter he addressed to Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel on Monday.
“These collusive and self-dealing arrangements aim to nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians,” DeSantis wrote.
In a statement last week to CBS Miami, Disney said that the contracts it had signed were appropriate and had been fully addressed in compliance with state law.
After Disney enraged the governor by opposing the contentious “Don’t say gay” rule, which forbids instruction on s*xual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and lessons judged not age-appropriate, state lawmakers disbanded Reedy Creek at DeSantis’ suggestion.
Members of the CFTOD board claimed they learned about the agreement after being appointed and held their first meeting last month.
DeSantis requested Miguel to investigate any financial benefit Disney might have received from the Reedy Creek board’s decision to sign the pact and whether the panel’s actions violated any state laws in the letter.
“Disney is again fighting to keep its special corporate benefits and dodge Florida law,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said. “We are not going to let that happen. As Governor DeSantis recently said, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.'”
Any retaliatory steps taken by DeSantis and state politicians against the firm that jeopardize jobs or expansion, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger, are not only “anti-business, but anti-Florida,” he declared on Monday.
During a shareholders meeting, Iger reaffirmed the company’s love for Florida, emphasizing that it had contributed the most to the state’s coffers and employed almost 75,000 people.
According to him, the corporation intends to invest $17 billion at Disney World over the following ten years, adding an extra 13,000 employees.
While the firm navigates some commercial difficulty, Disney faces a potential state inquiry. The entertainment company is preparing to eliminate 7,000 positions by early summer.
The job layoffs, which account for about 3% of Disney’s 220,000 global employees, are projected to save the company $5.5 billion.
Disney’s investment in streaming, notably its flagship Disney+ platform, has slowed down the company’s development. During the first quarter of 2023, the company’s direct-to-consumer division recorded a $1 billion deficit.
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