The Walt Disney Company

Disney Settles With Ron DeSantis Over Florida Tax District

Author: Editors Desk, Joseph De Avila, and Robbie Whelan Source: WSJ:
March 27, 2024 at 14:09
The settlement will likely make it easier for Disney to proceed with near-term expansion plans for Disney World. PHOTO: JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES
The settlement will likely make it easier for Disney to proceed with near-term expansion plans for Disney World. PHOTO: JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

The entertainment giant has been in a long-running fight with the Republican governor

Disney DIS 0.23%increase; green up pointing triangle and a board appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have reached a settlement regarding the governance of a special tax district, resetting what became a contentious relationship between the state and one of its biggest employers.

The entertainment giant has been in a long-running fight with the governor over laws targeting the district, which covers the land that houses Walt Disney World. 

Disney had effective control over the district for decades. That changed after Disney spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, known by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” measure.

Florida’s Republican-led Legislature ended Disney’s control of the district and gave the governor the ability to pick its supervisory board. 

In February of last year, Disney moved to soften the blow of the governor’s takeover of the district by rushing a 30-year land development plan to approval before the new board could be seated. That move allowed the company to plan major expansions at Walt Disney World unhindered. 

Wednesday’s settlement effectively nullifies that agreement and forces Disney to revert to an earlier, less expansive development plan. 

The settlement is a win for Gov. DeSantis, who has been trying for over a year to rein in Disney’s power over the land that includes Walt Disney World. It also will likely make it easier for Disney to move ahead with near-term expansion plans for its theme parks and resort.  

Before the settlement, large-scale development plans had been at a standstill because of the legal fracas between the two parties, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Disney CEO Bob Iger last year called DeSantis’s attacks on the district “antibusiness” and “anti-Florida” and said that some $17 billion in new development and tens of thousands of new jobs hung in the balance. Disney is also under pressure to show investors that it is righting the ship amid a contentious proxy fight with activist investor Nelson Peltz


From the archive: Walt Disney Co. is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after a year of trying to outmaneuver each other. WSJ’s Arian Campo-Flores explains what’s behind the lawsuit. Photo Composition: Ryan Trefes

Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World, said Wednesday he’s pleased to end the litigation with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

“This agreement opens a new chapter of constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district and serves the interests of all parties,” Vahle said. 

Bryan Griffin, communications director for DeSantis’s office, said no corporation should be its own government. 

“Moving forward, we stand ready to work with Disney and the District to help promote economic growth, family-friendly tourism, and accountable government in Central Florida,” Griffin said in a statement.

A federal lawsuit alleging DeSantis and his allies retaliated against Disney for opposing the law restricting classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation was dismissed in January.

Disney has vowed to appeal that suit, but as part of Wednesday’s settlement, the company has put its appeal on hold so that it can negotiate a new development agreement and settle other matters with the district. 

Write to Joseph De Avila at and Robbie Whelan at

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