Updated Mar 27, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Disney, DeSantis' allies reach settlement over Florida special district

Disney characters appear during a parade

Minnie Mouse and friends take part in a parade at Walt Disney World in Florida on June 1, 2022. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Walt Disney Co. and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' allies reached a settlement agreement Wednesday regarding control of the Orlando theme park's special tax district.

Why it matters: The agreement ends a yearslong legal dispute between DeSantis and Disney, which the company argued stemmed from its opposition to the Florida "Don't Say Gay" law signed in 2022.

Zoom in: Board members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District approved the settlement on Wednesday. The oversight district serves as a special tax district and offers municipal services including firefighting.

  • Disney is also dropping a separate lawsuit from last year regarding public records, per the settlement.

What they're saying: Walt Disney World president Jeff Vahle said in a statement shared with Axios that Disney is "pleased to put an end" to the state court litigation.

  • Vahle said the agreement enables "the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunity in the State."

The other side: DeSantis' communications director Bryan Griffin said they are "glad that Disney has dropped its lawsuits against" the oversight district and "conceded that their last-minute development agreements are null, void, and unenforceable," per a statement to Axios.

  • Griffin added that they "stand ready to work with Disney and the District to help promote economic growth, family-friendly tourism, and accountable government in Central Florida."

Catch up quick: After Disney's vocal criticism of the Parental Rights in Education law signed by DeSantis in 2022, he signed legislation that gave the state control over the theme park's self-governing district and appointed a new board of supervisors.

  • Disney filed a lawsuit in April 2023 against the Florida governor over allegations that the state retaliated against Disney following their opposition to the education law.
  • The lawsuit also accused the DeSantis administration, in part, of violating the company's First Amendment rights.
  • A federal judge dismissed Disney's lawsuit in January, and the company later filed an appeal.

What's next: The company agreed to "defer briefing" in the suit "pending negotiations among other matters of a new development agreement between Disney and the District."

Go deeper: Disney files appeal after judge dismissed lawsuit against Ron DeSantis

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Griffin's statement.

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