Disney Blocks Ron DeSantis With King Charles Clause


Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World.

Roberto Machado Noa | Light flare | Getty Images

Forget Disney Princesses. Mickey Mouse may have just proven who the real king of Florida is.

disney used a legal clause that verifies the name of King Charles III to seemingly thwart Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ attempt to strip the company of its power of autonomy in the state.

For nearly a year, state lawmakers, encouraged by DeSantis, sought to exert more control over the company’s Florida-based theme parks by passing a bill that would dissolve Disney’s special tax district. DeSantis also wanted to rename the area Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and establish a new council to oversee it.

Until recently, there had been no major public discussion about disbanding Disney’s long-established special ward, which he has occupied for 55 years, leading DeSantis’ critics to question his timeline. and the speed with which the governor acted against the company.

Widely seen as a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis found himself locked in a bitter and public feud with the entertainment giant over the company’s exposure of Florida’s HB 1557 law earlier this year. ‘last year. HB 1557, dubbed by critics the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits early education teachings about sexual orientation or gender identity.

State Rep. Randy Fine told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last April that the bill was not retaliatory, but later said “when Disney kicked the nest of hornets, we examined special quarters”.

While Disney has been silent on the matter for months, it appears the House of Mouse has hatched a plan to retain control over the lands within the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties.

On Feb. 8, the day before the Florida House vote to put DeSantis in charge, the former Disney-allied board signed a long-term development agreement that severely limits the control that can be exercised over the company and his district.

Under a 30-year development agreement, Disney no longer needs board approval to construct high-density projects or buildings of any height and can sell or divest development rights. It also prohibits the board from using Disney’s name or any of its characters.

30 March 2023, Brandenburg, Brodowin: King Charles III. stands next to a cake made especially for his visit to the Brodowin ecovillage during the royal visit to Germany.

Swimming pool | via Reuters

The deal includes a Royal Clause that dates back to 1692 in Britain and would extend its duration for decades.

This “declaration shall remain in force until 21 years after the death of the last surviving descendant of King Charles III, King of England, alive at the date of this declaration,” the document states. This type of clause is most often used in the UK, usually when dealing with trusts, and provides protection against perpetuities.

“So as long as one of those grandchildren turns 80, that clause would be there for 100 years,” said Robert Lord, senior tax policy adviser at the progressive group Patriotic Millionaires.

DeSantis replaced all Disney Allied board members with five Republicans on Feb. 27. It was only then that Disney’s binding new deal was discovered. The clause was so obscure that several journalists who attended the February 8 meeting apparently did not notice it.

“That essentially makes Disney the government,” said Ron Peri, one of the new board members appointed to the CFTOD by DeSantis, at the Feb. 27 meeting. “This council loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond road maintenance and upkeep of basic infrastructure.”

Representatives for DeSantis did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. The Florida Attorney General requested communication records regarding the Feb. 8 meeting, according to a tweet by a reporter from the Washington Post.

Florida lawmakers balked at the new agreement, promising to find a legal way to repeal or strike down the document. However, Disney says all of his conduct was legal.

“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open and public forums noted, in accordance with the Government of Florida in Sunshine Law,” the Walt Disney Resort said in a statement.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media from the Florida Cabinet following his State of the State address to a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, March 7, 2023 , at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida.

Cheney Orr | AFP | Getty Images

The district in question is the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was established in 1967. It was created by the Florida Legislature so that Disney could develop infrastructure for Walt Disney World at no cost to Florida taxpayers.

The arrangement allowed Disney to build theme parks, hotels and other tourist experiences in the Reedy Creek District with little or no oversight. The company also became the largest employer of Florida residents and helped the Orlando area become one of the largest tourism hubs in the United States.

And Disney allies came to the Feb. 8 meeting prepared to defend its special status in the state.

According to the minutes, board chairman Larry Hames asked if there were any other matters to discuss before closing the meeting.

John Classe, who has been Reedy Creek’s top administrator since 2016, then quoted famed basketball coach John Wooden, “Things go better for people who make the most of the way things go. “

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