Disney, DeSantis-backed board reach settlement agreement



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Disney and the state of Florida have reached a settlement agreement in their lawsuit about who controls Walt Disney World’s governing district, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board announced Wednesday.

Members of the board approved the settlement agreement, ending the nearly two years of litigation that were originally sparked by Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Disney and DeSantis have been engaged in a feud since the company publicly opposed the law and DeSantis stripped Disney of the special status it had for decades, which gave it self-governing power over the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

DeSantis signed a bill in February 2023 ending Disney’s self-governing status and allowing the district to be controlled by the state. The governor’s office then could appoint a five-member board to govern the district.

Disney claimed DeSantis and the state of Florida violated the company’s First Amendment rights by using government power to retaliate against its opposition and filed a lawsuit last April.

The agreement reached Wednesday stipulates that development plans approved by the previous board before DeSantis took over would be “null and void.” Disney has also agreed to dismiss a separate state case involving public records.

The federal case that Disney has filed against the district is “on appeal now” to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the board said.

The Hill has reached out to Disney for comment, but Jeff Vahle, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, told The Associated Press that the company was pleased 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,” his statement said.

The Hill has also reached out to DeSantis’s office for comment on the agreement.

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