The board members tapped by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to oversee governance of Walt Disney World said Wednesday Disney’s previous governing board has stripped them of power.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District said that an agreement they signed with Disney’s then-board last month gave Disney maximum developmental power over the theme park resort’s 27,000 acres in central Florida.
The agreement came out of a Florida state lawmakers meeting in February, where statehouse Republicans resolved to restructure the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body created in 1967 that effectively gave Disney—the state’s largest employer—control over the land in and around its central Florida theme parks.
Ultimately the lawmakers passed a bill in February to end “Disney’s self-governing status” and to give Florida’s governor the authority to appoint new board members to the district.
Gov. DeSantis had targeted Reedy Creek last year after Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek publicly criticized Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” bill, which restricts certain classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In setting the expiration terms of the agreement, Disney invoked an obscure property law known as Rule Against Perpetuities, setting the date for “twenty one (21) years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England living as of the date of this Declaration.”
“This essentially makes Disney the government,” Ron Peri, a member of the new Florida board, said Wednesday. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”
Another new board member, Brian Aungst, said, “We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” calling the provision a “subversion of the will” of the voters, the state legislature and the governor.
According to the agreement text, Disney was given numerous powers including development rights for the next thirty years, or until 2053, as well as the authority to approve any design improvements.
DeSantis said earlier this month that his new board members would be able to tailor the type of entertainment that’s undertaken by Disney at its Florida theme parks, though it’s unclear how they would be able to do so.