Bob Iger says Gov. DeSantis’ fight with Disney is about ‘one thing’: Retaliation

Bob Iger
Disney CEO Bob Iger addressed the company's ongoing fight with Florida during the company's earnings call Wednesday.

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger fired back at Republicans’ claims they are leveling the playing field by imposing new oversight against the Mouse.

“This is about one thing and one thing only, and that’s retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation,” Iger said when asked about the fight against Florida lawmakers during the company’s earnings call. “This is not about special privileges or a level playing field or Disney in any way using its leverage around the state of Florida.”

This year, the Republican-majority Legislature passed bills that removed Disney World’s governing board members and replaced them with Gov. Ron DeSantis appointees, allow state inspectors to check the monorail and try to nullify Disney’s agreements with its old governing board.

A rallying cry among Republicans has been Disney shouldn’t have its own government, a perk Disney’s competitors in the theme park industry don’t have.

Eventually, Disney sued DeSantis and the state-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight board last month in federal court. The Central Florida board has countersued Disney in Orange Circuit Court.

“We never wanted, and we certainly never expected, to be in a position of having to defend our business interests in federal court, particularly having such a terrific relationship with the state as we’ve had for more than 50 years,” Iger said Wednesday.

But Disney’s feud with DeSantis doesn’t appear to have hurt Disney theme parks’ popularity, which are bright spots for the company’s finances. The second-quarter operating income increased 23% to $2.2 billion in the company’s parks, products and experiences division compared to last year.

Iger argued the state targeted the Reedy Creek Improvement District and ignored the other 2,000 special districts, like The Villages and the Daytona Speedway, that are set up around the state after Disney spoke out last year against the Parental Rights in Education law, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“We all know there was no concerted effort to do anything to dismantle what was once called Reedy Creek special district until we spoke out on the legislation. So this is plainly a matter of retaliation, while the rest of the Florida special districts continue operating basically as they were,” Iger said, adding Disney’s special district once made it easier to do business in Florida.

Today, Walt Disney World Resort employs more than 75,000 people, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world and paid more than $1.1 billion in state and local taxes last year. Disney is planning to invest $17 billion in Florida over the next decade, Iger said, which led him to ask one question: “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?”

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 .


  • PeterH

    May 10, 2023 at 6:20 pm

    Narcissistic retaliation is a crucial tool in the MAGA wingnut argument against American freedom and democracy.

    Don’t be fooled by DeSantis’s fake narrative. His Disney antagonism has absolutely nothing to do with Conservatism.

    • corruption and abuse of power in Florida

      May 10, 2023 at 6:27 pm

      yes, DeSantis is a bully and a lion, some cells with fascist ideology. He needs to be held accountable, and charged with abuse of pi, power and corruption.

  • corruption and abuse of power in Florida

    May 10, 2023 at 6:25 pm

    DeSantis is anti-business and anti-Florida. He wants everything in Florida to be state run and controlled by him and the super majority of GOP cronies that will do DeSantis is bidding. Two facts DeSantis is abusing his power into both him and the state should be investigated for corruption.

  • Keystone Keys

    May 12, 2023 at 3:03 pm

    Florida was around long before the rodent kingdom appeared in the 60’s. Florida will survive and thrive, with, or without Disney.

    • Tjb

      May 12, 2023 at 5:50 pm

      Florida will not survive if DeSantis get a second term as governor. If he becomes president he destroy the USA.

  • Malcolm Armstrong

    May 13, 2023 at 12:08 pm

    Bob Iger will win big time.

    Ron DeSantis has the tiny dick of a mouse. Hence his stupid feud with Disney world. His kids actually look like mentally challenged versions of Mickey and Minnie, while his wife skips over to a “Stepford Wife” movie (Must have passed his date prompt for who gets him and who doesn’t). He’s an embarrassment to true Floridians. His political career is tanking quickly (with his Fascist rule. Freedoms? Nothing he knows anything about. He only knows about, “Thigh food”).

Comments are closed.


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