Disney has filed counterclaims against the board of supervisors appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in a ongoing legal battle. The company is seeking damages and a court order for the district to comply with development contracts that are at the center of the dispute. The board and Disney have not provided any comments regarding the recent filing.
The dispute began when Disney sued DeSantis and his hand-picked board members in a federal lawsuit, accusing the governor of political retaliation after the company criticized a controversial classroom bill. DeSantis and his allies targeted the special tax district, previously known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has allowed Walt Disney World to self-govern its operations since the 1960s. The governor replaced the board with his preferred choices and changed the district's name to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
Disney claims that it entered into development deals to protect its investments in Florida amidst what it describes as escalating retaliation from the state government. However, the new board nullified these contracts, alleging that Disney had sneaked them through to undermine its power. In response, Disney filed a lawsuit against the board. The board countered by arguing that Disney lacked the authority to enter into the contracts and that the prior board failed to provide proper notice.
The legal battle is being fought in both federal and state courts, and there is no indication of a swift resolution. Disney recently lost its bid to dismiss the state-level case, while attempts by DeSantis and the board to dismiss the federal case are still pending. Despite the ongoing legal dispute, DeSantis has expressed his desire for the fight to end. In an interview with CNBC, he urged Disney CEO Bob Iger to drop the lawsuit, claiming that the company is destined to lose. DeSantis has frequently mentioned the feud with Disney on the campaign trail, criticizing the company for what he perceives as its embrace of "woke" issues and accusing it of sexualizing children, a claim that Iger has dismissed as baseless.