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Disney & DeSantis Allies Settle Theme Park Control Dispute

Allies of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney have reached a settlement agreement concerning the governance of Walt Disney World in the future.

The resolution follows a judge’s ruling in January, affirming the legality of the state’s alterations to the amusement theme park’s district government. This dispute has persisted for nearly two years, initially ignited by Disney’s objection to a state law curbing the discussion of sexuality in schools.

During a meeting on Wednesday, members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board greenlit the settlement agreement.

Jeff Vahle, President of Walt Disney World Resort, expressed satisfaction with the settlement, stating, “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,” as reported by the Associated Press news agency.

The conflict arose after Disney, prompted by internal pressure, voiced disapproval of the Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which restricts discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity for students in Florida.

In response to Disney’s stance, Governor DeSantis, a proponent of the law, enacted legislation that revoked Disney’s self-governing authority, a privilege the company held for over 50 years. This action consolidated more authority under Governor DeSantis, who now appoints members to a board overseeing the park’s 25,000 acres.

However, prior to the board’s transition, Disney-aligned members of the board entered into agreements with the company, transferring control of certain aspects of Disney World to the corporation. Subsequently, the district filed a lawsuit against Disney, and the company retaliated with a countersuit.

Under the terms of Wednesday’s agreement, legal counsel Paul Huck stated during the board meeting that Disney acknowledged the nullification of the control transfer to Disney before the board’s transition.

The city-sized theme park has been under Disney’s operation since 1971.

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