Disney thwarts DeSantis’ oversight board takeover using bizarre legal tie to King Charles III of England
The Walt Disney Co., amid its feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, invoked King Charles III in its attempt to stifle efforts by the Republican governor to strip the company of its self-governance power in the state.
In February, after nearly a year of lawmakers working to dissolve Disney’s special tax district, DeSantis signed a bill into law that ends Disney’s self-governing power and puts the media giant under the control of a state board. The same month, in the hours before the Florida House of Representatives approved a state takeover, the board — still under control of Disney-allied appointees at the time — transferred many duties of the special district over to Disney’s control.
According to developer agreements signed into effect Feb. 8, the same day the Florida House passed legislation to control aspects of Disney’s land, the Reedy Creek Improvement District transferred most of its power to Disney for the next 30 years.
The agreement — which gives Disney the ability to no longer seek board approval to construct complex projects or buildings at certain heights, as well as sell or assign development rights — used a royal clause dating back to 1692 in Great Britain.
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The Walt Disney Co. — amid its feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — invoked a legal royal clause in its attempt to stifle efforts by the governor to strip the company of its self-governance power in the state. (AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC, Scott Olson via Getty Images)
“[This] Declaration shall continue in effect until 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,” the document stated, referencing language used most often in the United Kingdom.
“So, as long as one of those grandchildren makes it 80, this clause would be there for 100 years,” said Robert Lord, senior advisor on tax policy at progressive group Patriotic Millionaires, according to NBC News.
The agreement featuring the clause went into effect prior to Feb. 27, when DeSantis replaced the Disney-allied board members with Republicans. The moves were not widely discussed until a meeting of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board (CFTOB), formerly known as the Reedy Creek Special District.
“This essentially makes Disney the government,” Ron Peri, a newly-appointed member of the CFTOB, said at a Feb. 27 meeting. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”
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The previous board that oversaw aspects of Disney World approved a series of agreements that gave the corporate giant a wide range of control. (Getty Images for Disney Dreamers Academy)
New board member Brian Aungst Jr. also took issue with the agreement, considering it “void” after it was “passed the same day the Florida House passed the bill creating this board, and it was done to prevent us from doing our job.”
“That is offensive to me,” Aungst Jr. said.
“The Executive Office of the Governor is aware of Disney’s last-ditch efforts to execute contracts just before ratifying the new law that transfers rights and authorities from the former Reedy Creek Improvement District to Disney,” said Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for the governor’s office.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law in February that ends Disney’s self-governing power and puts the media giant under the control of a state board. (Kathryn Gamble/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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The governor was not aware of the agreements made by the former board before putting his stamp on the new district, according DeSantis’ office. However, they were passed by the board during a public meeting that included public hearings.
“An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law,” Fenske said. “We are pleased the new Governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”
Fox News’ Kassy Dillon and Matt Leach contributed to this article.
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