Settlement reached in lawsuit between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ allies

ORLANDO, Fla. — Allies of Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney reached a settlement agreement Wednesday in a court battle over how Walt Disney World will be developed in the future following the Florida governor’s takeover of the theme park resort.

At a meeting, members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board approved the settlement agreement, ending nearly two years of litigation sparked by DeSantis’ takeover of the district from Disney supporters following opposition from the company against the so-called “Don’t say gay law.

The 2022 law bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades and was championed by the Republican governor, who used Disney as a punching bag in speeches until he suspended his presidential campaign this year.

The district provides municipal services such as firefighting, planning and mosquito control, among other things, and was controlled by Disney supporters for most of its five decades.

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

“This agreement opens a new chapter of constructive collaboration with the District’s new leadership and serves the interests of all parties by enabling significant continued investments and creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunities in the state,” Vahle said.

As punishment for Disney’s opposition to the law, DeSantis took over the governing district through legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and appointed a new board of supervisors. Disney sued DeSantis and his appointees, claiming the company’s free speech rights had been violated for speaking out against the legislation. A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in January.

Before control of the district transitioned from Disney allies to DeSantis appointees early last year, Disney supporters on the board signed agreements with Disney, shifting control of design and construction at Disney World to the company. DeSantis’ new appointees claimed the “eleventh-hour agreements” had neutralized their powers, and the district sued the company in state court in Orlando to have the contracts annulled.

Disney has filed counterclaims, including asking the state court to declare the agreements valid and enforceable.


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