Punishing Disney for speaking out is ‘anti-business, anti-Florida,’ CEO Bob Iger says

Bob Iger
Monday was a rare moment of Disney CEO Bob Iger opening up publicly about the feud between the company and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Gov. Ron DeSantis retaliating against Disney for opposing the state’s “parental right in education” bill “just seems really wrong to me,” Disney CEO Bob Iger is arguing. 

It was a rare moment of Iger opening up about the state’s takeover of the Reedy Creek board. Iger was asked about the situation Monday during the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

Iger, referencing the First Amendment, said DeSantis is essentially seeking “to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right, and that just seems really wrong to me, against any company or individual but particularly against the company that means so much to the state that you live in.”

Iger brought up Disney World’s value to Florida from the company employing 75,000 people as the largest state taxpayer, the 50 million visitors expected to come to Disney this year and Disney’s $17 billion investment over the next decade at Disney World.

“Any action that thwarts those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” Iger said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Iger’s comments at the meeting came hours after DeSantis said he is pushing for an investigation into the Reedy Creek board’s agreements with Disney that were approved before the state took it over. Those long-term development agreements intentionally stripped the power away from the now-state-run board, DeSantis said.

Iger also indirectly referenced former CEO Bob Chapek’s response last year. Chapek angered LGBTQ advocates and many Disney employees for not speaking out fast enough against the Parental Rights in Education law, which has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics.

When Chapek eventually said he was opposed to the legislation during Disney’s 2022 shareholder’s meeting, he drew the ire of Florida Republicans, who eventually passed a law to replace Disney World’s government board with DeSantis appointees. Disney fired Chapek in November.

“About a year ago the company took a position on pending Florida legislation,” Iger said Monday. “While the company may have not handled the position very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech, just like individuals do.”

In 1967, when Disney was looking for a site to build Disney World, the state of Florida offered the company plenty of incentives for them to build here. That meant Disney got its own government, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, to give Disney control over building the infrastructure for its future theme parks without having to get approval from the local municipalities first.

“We love the state of Florida,” Iger said. “We’ve always respected and appreciated what the state has done for us. It’s kind of been a two-way street.”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • Villages Buzzard Bill McBlue-hair

    April 3, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    It’s constitutional rights and freedoms for the GOP…and fascism for everyone else. That’s the new GOP game. That and continue to shovel mountains of money to the rich.

  • gloriajame

    April 3, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    Excellent work, Mike. I greatly commend your effort because I currently generate more than $36,000 each month from just one simple web business! Even with just $29,000, you may va-57 start developing a reliable online income and these are just the most basic internet operations occupations.
    Switch the connection————————————>>>

  • Dr. Franklin Waters

    April 3, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    DeSantis choose a really weird hill to die on with this one.

  • JD

    April 3, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    The reaction was punitive and pandering from get-go and they all knew it. And absurdist Randy Fine submitting the bill was the cherry on the Disney-frosting-Rons-Ass cake.

    It called out them for being political bullies and going after a fairly defenseless and marginalized group as the booegy man. NO ONE has put forth any evidence drag queens were “grooming” anyone. And if they are truly afraid of drag queens, then they shouldn’t be running anything.

    A waste of our tax dollars. Funny how they spend those on stupid stuff when they aren’t from their pocket. This is the political equivalent to cigarettes and tattoos.

    Shameful and pathetic.

  • Mike Budd

    April 3, 2023 at 5:28 pm

    DeSantis is a provincial political bully who’s not ready to take on a multinational corporation like Disney. Disney CEO Bob Iger is very smooth and reassuring, on a whole different level. That doesn’t mean Disney is right. Disney does lots of cruel and hateful things, most of which have to do with savage capitalism. For example, paying thousands of Disney employees below a living wage, while top executives make millions. For more on this, pay attention to Abigail Disney, Walt’s grandniece, who speaks out against the company’s exploitative policies on her podcast and elsewhere, and who has made an excellent film, “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales.”

    • JD

      April 3, 2023 at 6:01 pm

      She’s not wrong. Her main point was money makes money on its own. At what point does someone’s ingenuity and hard work stop being a factor and the wealth is the tipping point to stifle all other competition? In there should be the tax code and wealth tax justification. Are we a nation of dynasties and royal families? NO

Comments are closed.


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