In a question and answer session this morning, Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro said that the ongoing feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has not impacted theme park operations or results yet.
As you’ve seen in our results, the progress that we’ve made coming out of COVID has been exceptionally strong. So some of the things that are happening, and I assume you mean from a political perspective, etc, some of the things that have been taking place have not impacted our business results.
The answer is not completely unexpected. At the heart of the legal battle between Disney, DeSantis, and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is a Development Agreement. This Development Agreement is a 30-year agreement that outlines how future development at the theme park complex and surrounding area will take place. Disney is currently undertaking a number of projects that were in place before the Development Agreement and projects like Tiana’s Bayou Adventure or the EPCOT transformation will be completed regardless of which way the courts land on the contract.
What remains at question is the long-term investment in Walt Disney World. In today’s conference, D’Amaro struck a largely optimistic tone about the much-publicized $17 billion investment in Disney World over the next 10 years. D’Amaro spoke about how Disney has space to expand, notably at the Magic Kingdom, and didn’t offer caveats that he has previously offered in communication with employees.
Of course, D’Amaro also pointed to strong quarterly earnings results that were released earlier this month.
D’Amaro did say that Disney is expecting a “moderation” in attendance and revenue at Walt Disney World, but said that the reason for that was due to higher previous-year figures when the 50th Anniversary celebration was still ongoing. The 50th Anniversary ran from October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2023.
There are two high-profile lawsuits currently in the courts that take aim at a Development Agreement that Disney entered into with the previous Board of Supervisors of the then-named Reedy Creek Improvement District.
One lawsuit was filed by Disney World against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Board of Supervisors, among others. The lawsuit asks the court to recognize the Development Agreement as valid and to recognize the series of events and bills that led to the State takeover of the Reedy Creek Improvement District as a violation of the First Amendment rights of the Company. Ultimately, Disney wants the State takeover of the RCID to be undone.
In a separate lawsuit, the CFTOD is seeing Disney World, asking the court to recognize the Development Agreement as null and void, citing a series of contract infirmities.
Legislation Might Over Legal Proceedings
On May 5th, DeSantis decided to get ahead of the pending court cases and simply sign a law to nullify the Development Agreement in what appears to be a flexing of executive might. Instead of relying on the court system to agree with the legal arguments of why the Development Agreement should be nullified, DeSantis signed SB 1604, a land use bill with a narrowly written amendment from Republican legislators to nullify the Development Agreement legislatively.
Following the stroke of the Governor’s pen, Disney World amended its lawsuit to include the bill in its argument against the state.
Disney Asks for Dismissal
Following Governor DeSantis actions to use the state legislature to nullify the Development Agreement instead of the courts, Disney asked the state to dismiss the CFTOD case, saying that the lawsuit in state court is moot given the actions of the Governor and rubber-stamp legislature.
The Hostile State of the Hostile State
As the saga with DeSantis continues to play out, Disney has announced that they are pulling the plug on a reported $1 billion investment in a sprawling new theme park headquarters in Lake Nona, Florida about 20 minutes from Walt Disney World. The campus would’ve served as the worldwide headquarters for the theme park division of the company, and it would’ve brought 2,000 six-figure jobs to the Central Florida area. Disney announced that it would not be moving forward with the project, with Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro citing “changing business conditions”.
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!