DeSantis Vs. Disney Battle Heats Up — And How King Charles III Is Now Involved

A tourist looks at a park map during the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orange County, Florida on May 30, 2022. Disney's ongoing embattlement with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as Disney had lost its self-governing status in Florida. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/BENZINGA


By Chris Katje

A battle between one of the largest media companies and a presidential hopeful could be heating up with a clause in a contract found and causing an increased battle.

And, here’s how King Charles III is involved in the clause.

Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis has clashed with Walt Disney Co for several years. The clash may have reached a peak breaking point with DeSantis signing a bill in February to strip Disney of several powers it had.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters on March 10, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. DeSantis, who is widely expected to seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president, is one of several Republican leaders visiting the state this month. SCOTT OLSON/BENZINGA

The terms of the bill signed by DeSantis end the self-governing powers Disney enjoyed in a district of Florida that houses the World Disney World theme park. DeSantis gained the power to select the five members who would serve the board.

“Today the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said at the bill’s signing ceremony.

A clause from the Reedy Creek Board controlled by Disney passed in February could put a damper on DeSantis’ push to end Disney’s self-governing power, according to Deadline.

“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” Disney told Deadline.

Part of the agreement was “a declaration of restrictive covenants” in the newly signed agreement that would allow Disney to keep self-governing power. The agreement indicated it is valid until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England.”

This “Royal living clause” could allow Disney to maintain rights until 21 years after the last living descendant of a British monarch who is alive at the time the contract is made, according to Deadline.

Under the agreement, Disney would be able to build projects and have the right to sell or assign development rights without the approval of the new board and prevents the new board from using the Disney name and characters.

“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors member Brian Aungst Jr. said. “It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”

A spokesperson for DeSantis told the Orlando Sentinel that the clauses from Disney were “last-ditch efforts.”

“An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law,” DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said.

Bob Hazen, a reporter from a local Orlando station, tweeted Wednesday that new Reedy Creek board members who were appointed by DeSantis were looking at legal challenges. The agreements were passed before the new DeSantis-appointed members joined the board.

Hazen said that the language of the agreements stay in effect despite the commentary from the new board members.

“This essentially makes Disney the government,” board member Ron Peri said. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”

Since 1967, Disney has enjoyed self-governing power over the district that includes the Walt Disney World theme park.

King Charles III visits Hamburg City Hall on March 31, 2023, in Hamburg, Germany. The King and The Queen Consort’s first state visit to Germany will take place in Berlin, Brandenburg and Hamburg from Sunday 29th March to Friday 31st March 2023. Disney can keep its self-governing state until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England. SAMIR HUSSEIN/BENZINGA

DeSantis has clashed with Disney after the media organization spoke out in opposition to DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education Act, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The Florida governor said Disney’s opposition to the bill was “only a mild annoyance” and the push for changes on Disney’s self-governing control comes from the media company placing “a lot of this sexuality into the programming for young kids.”

Since the time DeSantis passed the bill to change the Reedy Creek Board to the newly named Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the two parties have already made changes to potentially upset the others.

One of the appointees made to the board by DeSantis was a former pastor who has called homosexuality “evil” according to CNN. Ron Peri, CEO of The Gathering, once said that tap water could be making more people gay.

The appointment of Peri as one of the five people to govern the district in Central Florida could have been done as a backlash to the battle over DeSantis’ “Don’t say gay” bill.

It was recently announced that activist group Out & Equal would be holding its 2023 workplace summit at the Walt Disney Resort, Sept. 11–14. The move could be done in a protest against DeSantis.

The war between DeSantis and Disney is likely far from over and could heat up with Disney quietly getting around the governor’s challenge against the company.

With presidential aspirations likely on deck for DeSantis, he may need to decide how far he wants to continue his crusade against Disney.

Produced in association with Benzinga

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