Settlement reached in lawsuit between allies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers his economic policy speech. Rochester^ N.H.USA - July 31^ 2023

Following the takeover of the Walt Disney World theme park resort’s government by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Disney and allies of DeSantis reached a settlement agreement on Wednesday after a court fight over how Walt Disney World is developed in the future.

The board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District –which provides municipal services such as firefighting, planning and mosquito control, for example — was controlled by Disney supporters for most of its five decades.  The board members approved the settlement agreement, ending almost two years of litigation that was sparked by DeSantis’ takeover of the district from Disney supporters following the company’s opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. As punishment for Disney’s opposition to the law, DeSantis took over the governing district through legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and appointed a new board of supervisors. Disney sued DeSantis and his appointees, claiming the company’s free speech rights were violated for speaking out against the legislation. A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in January.

Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement Wednesday: “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.”

Under the terms of Wednesday’s settlement agreement, Disney lets stand a determination by the board of DeSantis appointees that the comprehensive plan approved by the Disney supporters before the takeover is null and void. According to the settlement terms, Disney also agrees that a development agreement and restrictive covenants passed before the takeover are also not valid. As such, a comprehensive plan from 2020 will be used with the new board able to make changes to it, and the agreement suggests Disney and the new board will negotiate a new development agreement in the near future.

Editorial credit: Andrew Cline /