Disney and DeSantis allies end legal dispute

2 weeks ago 23

People gather at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Florida, USA on 30 July 2022Image source, Reuters

Allies of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney have reached a settlement agreement over how Walt Disney World is governed in the future.

It comes after a judge ruled in January that it was legal for the state to make changes to the amusement theme park's district government.

A row between the two sides has been trundling on for almost two years.

It was sparked by Disney's criticism of a state law that restricted the teaching of sexuality in schools.

In a meeting on Wednesday, members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board approved the settlement agreement.

Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement that the company was pleased that a settlement had been reached.

"This agreement opens a new chapter of constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district and serves the interests of all parties by enabling significant continued investment and the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunity in the state," the Associated Press news agency quoted Mr Vahle as saying.

The two sides started feuding after Disney, under pressure from its staff, criticised the Parental Rights in Education Act - dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics - which bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity for students in Florida.

In response to Disney's criticism, Mr DeSantis - who is a proponent of the law - passed legislation that stripped Disney of its self-governing authority - a power the company had for more than 50 years.

The move gave more power to Mr DeSantis, who now appoints members of a board that governs the park's 25,000 acres.

But before the board changed hands, Disney supporters on the board signed agreements with the company shifting control of some aspects at Disney World to the company - a move the district then sued Disney over. The company also countersued.

Under Wednesday's agreement, litigation counsel Paul Huck said at the board meeting that the company recognised that the signing over of control to Disney before the board changed hands was "null and void".

The city-sized theme park had been operated by Disney since 1971.

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Watch: DeSantis v Disney fight explained in 90 seconds

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