Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger addressed investors to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings. During the call, he said something about Disney’s fight with Governor Ron DeSantis. He was diplomatic but pointed in his criticism and laid out a preview of what to expect at the federal civil suit Disney has brought against DeSantis.
Disney has played their hand relatively close to the vest thus far. Until their last-minute move against the dismantling of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, they seemed to have lingered in the shadows. Today, however, was a different story. Iger came out strong and essentially said that Disney is good for Florida, but DeSantis is not. “does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes—or not?” he said.
It’s a valid question considering DeSantis and his allies have seemingly done everything they could to prevent Disney from growing. In fact, it seems that if DeSantis had his way about it, Disney would just pack up and move to another state. That isn’t practical (or even possible, really) so Disney has to double down and fight it out.
Stating that a false narrative has been put forth by DeSantis and his allies about Disney’s motives, Iger cleared up any misconceptions in a lengthy statement. Disney’s stance is now crystal clear, and the statement gave us a peek into the direction the lawsuit will take.
His statement left little room for doubt that Disney feels it is in a strong position going into the suit. “Regarding Florida, I have got a few things I want to say about that. First of all, I think the case that we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear, and that is really that this is about one thing and one thing only—and that is retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation. And we believe that in us taking that position, we are merely exercising our right to free speech,” he began.
He pointed out that Disney has been singled out and specifically targeted due to their opposition.
“But since there’s been a lot said about special districts and the arrangement that we have, I want to set the record straight on that too. There are about 2,000 special districts in Florida. Most are established to foster investor development, where we were one of them. He [DeSantis] basically made it [harder] for us—and others, by the way—to do business in Florida, and we built a business that employs, as we said before, over 75,000 people, and attracts tens of millions of people to the state. So while it is easy to say that the Reedy Creek Special District that was established for us over 50 years ago benefited us, it is misleading to not also consider how much Disney benefited the state of Florida. And we are also not the only company operating a special district. I mentioned 2,000—the Daytona Speedway, it has one. So do the Villages, which is a permanent retirement community, and there are countless others. So if the goal is leveling the playing field in the uniform application of the law or government oversight of special districts, [that] needs to occur or be applied to all special districts.”
It stands to reason that this singling out of Disney’s special district will play a central role in their lawsuit. He went on to point out that Disney, far from avoiding taxes, as they have been accused, is Florida’s largest taxpayer and is also Florida’s largest employer (and that they pay well above minimum wage). He added, “We are proud of the tourism industry that we created, and we want to continue delivering the best possible experience for guests going forward.”
He concluded that Disney never thought they’d have to defend their right to do business in Florida, “particularly having such a terrific relationship with the state as we have had for more than 50 years.”
As always, stay tuned right here at Disney Dining. We are watching this story closely and will be sure to bring you the latest developments.
You can read his Iger’s statement in it’s entirety here:
NEW: Here is the complete transcript of Iger's comments about Florida.
"Does the state (Florida) want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?" pic.twitter.com/3jRw3k8AOz
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) May 10, 2023