Home Finance & Investing Attorney Ron DeSantis Claims Victory Over Disney And All He Had To Do Was Give Disney Everything They Wanted – Above the Law

Ron DeSantis Claims Victory Over Disney And All He Had To Do Was Give Disney Everything They Wanted – Above the Law

Ron DeSantis Claims Victory Over Disney And All He Had To Do Was Give Disney Everything They Wanted – Above the Law


Michelle Obama And Disney CEO Robert Iger Hold News Conference On Disney’s Nutritional Guidelines

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It began with Ron DeSantis swearing vengeance on Disney for mildly chastising his anti-gay people law. After detours into Lilibet of Sussex and the Rule Against Perpetuities, remedial civil procedure screw-ups, and the United States Supreme Court sending a stray directly at DeSantis, the matter ends — much like the DeSantis presidential campaign — not with a bang but with a whimper.

Because Disney agreed to forfeit its headline-grabbing and hilarious deal with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (then known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District), granting Disney functional control over the district until 21 years after the death of the last surviving descendent of King Charles, DeSantis supporters are framing the agreement as a victory.

For example, one tipster wrote in:

Hey Jo , here’s a tip. Did you see that Ron DeSantis just cleaned Disney’s clock? Makes you look like a gas bag

Given his inability to spell a three-letter word, it won’t surprise you to learn that he did not actually read and understand the settlement agreement (helpfully scanned by Politico). Thankfully, we’re always here to help him out.

But first, some background. There was a time, not too long ago, where Ron DeSantis believed he could be president. It may be hard to remember that after he spent the next several months getting ritualistically humiliated by Donald Trump, but it was true! And to bolster his profile, he embarked on a series of policies to fight “wokeness” including the Don’t Say Gay bill, an education provision banning schools from acknowledging that gay people exist. It has since been largely overturned because, like all of DeSantis’s attempts to govern from firing prosecutors to forcing cruise lines to give everyone COVID, his policies seem destined to get trounced in court.

Disney offered the slightest of critiques of the Don’t Say Gay bill and DeSantis decided to seek revenge, targeting the Reedy Creek Improvement District. To oversimplify the purpose of the entity, Disney owns lots and lots of land in central Florida and that land needs government services like water, and sewers, and firefighters. Rather than force some neighboring town to fork over property taxes to pay for Disney’s private empire, the company had its own quasi-governmental district. They paid for all the services and in return those expenditures were more or less treated like government expenditures saving the company tax dollars. Everyone won.

But it was something that Disney had that DeSantis could mess up. He first made a public bid to eliminate the tax district. After learning that this would saddle Florida taxpayers with millions in debt — something he probably should’ve researched before staking his reputation on it — he came up with the idea of saving the district but replacing all its board members with cronies who would take away or otherwise frustrate key permits that Disney relied upon like its water management rights. More on that later.

Since DeSantis and the new board cared less about governing than symbolic posturing, they never bothered to pay attention as the outgoing board publicly noticed meetings to hand power over to Disney directly. As a Florida corporate law expert — AND REPUBLICAN — noted at the time, Disney’s actions were airtight legal under existing law. The Republican legislature tried to change that and that’s when everything descended into lawsuits.

Now, with Disney giving up on its deals with the outgoing board, has DeSantis really won? Consider the settlement.

The first prong of this settlement actually fell into place before yesterday, when DeSantis appointed Stephanie Kopelousos to run the district, replacing Glen Gilzean, who DeSantis originally put in the job before an ethics panel ruled that he was serving illegally. Kopelousos is a Disney-applauded hire, having spent her career in the DeSantis orbit shielding Disney from the governor’s half-baked schemes, including carving them out of the big “tech wokeness” bill that the Supreme Court is about to strike down anyway.

So now, instead of being bossed around by board members like the guy who said fluoride makes kids gay, Disney has to deal with a known government ally who is almost certainly just warming her resume to become a Disney or Universal lobbyist down the road.

Not an auspicious beginning for the DeSantis victory crowd.

Second, the deal doesn’t just invalidate Disney’s deals with the outgoing board, but also everything the new board has tried to do. Under the terms of the agreement, everything reverts to the state of play in 2020 under the old Disney board and charges Kopelousos to run things from there. Theoretically, the new entity could still try to mess with Disney, however…

7. Mitigation Credits. As a material inducement to Disney in entering into the Agreement, the District acknowledges Disney is the owner of, and the District shall not prohibit or impede, but rather assist in the use of, Long-Term Permit Mitigation Credits or other entitlements created through:

a) South Florida Water Management District Environmental Resource Permits Nos. 48-00714-S, 48-00714-P, and/or and 48-00714-8-22, as amended;
b) Department of the Army Permit 199101901 (IP-GS) and/or SA3-1991-01901 (SP-TSD), as amended;
c) State of Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission Permits Nos. OSC-4, OSC-SSC-1, and/or OSC-TSR-1, as amended.

As a term of the settlement, the new entity expressly forfeits its right to do the sort of critical mayhem they hoped to accomplish and indeed to “rather assist” Disney in securing the substantive benefits Disney wanted all along.

Strike two.

Finally, the agreement takes the unusual step of NOT ending all the pending litigation and releasing everyone from liability.

8. Federal Lawsuit. Disney agrees to seek, and the District will not oppose, permission from the court to defer briefing in Disney’s pending federal appeal captioned as Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc. v. Governor, State of Florida et at, Case No. 24-10342 (11th Cir.) (“Federal Lawsuit”), pending negotiations among other matters of a new development agreement between Disney and the District.

The Eleventh Circuit appeal is the strongest of the various lawsuits. Trump judge Judge Allen Winsor, claimed that a law only and specifically impacting Disney-run Reedy Creek could not be considered targeted at Disney because the word “Disney” isn’t in the actual legislation. There might be an appellate panel willing to buy Winsor rewriting civil procedure to benefit DeSantis, but it’s not likely.

The substance of the case alleges that the new board breached Disney’s First Amendment rights by retaliating against it over the Don’t Say Gay law. So they maintain the lawsuit predicated on the appearance of retaliation “pending negotiations among other matters of a new development agreement between Disney and the District.”

In other words, Disney gets a new, friendly negotiating partner, all the board’s rules tossed, a commitment that the entity can’t mess with the interests Disney cared about, and the parties agree that the company can maintain its most powerful lawsuit as a cocked gun to the temple of the new entity to be invoked if the negotiations don’t go Disney’s way.

As clock cleanings go, it’s more like DeSantis performing community service scrubbing down the Main Street USA clocks and then telling Bob Iger, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” Though he does get to walk away mildly saving face that he’s changed the name on top of the tax district letterhead.

And after getting mollywhopped by Nikki Haley of all people, he’s going to take any W he can get.

(Settlement Agreement on the next page.)

EarlierRon DeSantis So Sure He’s Going To Win Disney Lawsuit That He’s Publicly Begging Bob Iger To Drop It
Supreme Court Subtweets Ron DeSantis That He’s Totally Losing To Disney
Disney Litigators Take Their Turn Beating The Hell Out Of Ron DeSantis With New Federal Lawsuit
We Shouldn’t Have To Choose Between Disney Whipping DeSantis And A Dickensian Hellscape
Judge In Disney’s Case Against Ron DeSantis Recuses Himself Because Father’s Brother’s Nephew’s Cousin’s Former Roommate Owns 30 Shares Of Disney
Disney’s Lawyers Are Better Than Ron DeSantis’s Lawyers
Disney Lawyers Seem Honestly Shocked That Ron DeSantis Legal Team Is So Bad At This
DeSantis Crony Overseeing Disney Tax District Serving Illegally Because OF COURSE!

HeadshotJoe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.



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