Revolt in Disney’s Florida Kingdom

The Walt Disney co

Florida needs more than Florida needs Walt Disney. This is the latest chapter in this story of a CEO who followed his woke employees like a lemming off the cliff of cultural politics. Disney employees called on Mickey Mouse to oppose Florida’s misdescribed “don’t say gay” law. Now the state legislature is reacting by setting up a few sticky traps.


The Florida Legislature this week voted to abolish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, allowing Disney World to run its own private government. Created by the legislature in 1967, the district covers approximately 40 square miles and has two water parks and four theme parks, including the Magic Kingdom. Disney essentially controls land use, environmental protection, fire services, utilities, 100+ miles of roads and more.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the law into law. The Journal quotes a source familiar with Disney’s finances as saying the District saves the company tens of millions of dollars a year. Without them, services like repairing potholes could fall back to the county government.

Disney largely funds the Reedy Creek District, which had about $150 million in revenue last year. It also carries nearly $1 billion in debt. Orange County’s mayor warned Thursday that the upkeep would “fall on the county’s budgets” if the district leaves, imposing “an undue burden on the rest of taxpayers.” The headache seems big enough that it’s hard not to marvel at the bill’s effective date. It dissolves Reedy Creek County on June 1, 2023 – time for Disney and Mr. DeSantis to reconcile.

Are Florida Republicans involved in unfair political retaliation? “Basically,” Mr. DeSantis said last month, “I don’t support special privileges in the law just because a corporation is powerful.” Live by the corporate spin-off, die by the corporate spin-off. Politically, the Reedy Creek neighborhood is a perk granted to Disney by the state. The mystery is why Disney thought it could shove state legislatures around with no headwind.

One answer is that previous corporate political signaling came with little expense and media hosannas. Remember when Major League Baseball pulled its All-Star game from Atlanta as punishment for Georgia’s new election law. “Fair access to voting continues to have the unwavering support of our game,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred. The voting law “doesn’t align with Delta’s values,” CEO Ed Bastian fretted.

Did you read the bill? Or did they trust President Biden, who called it “Jim Crow 2.0”? Absentee voting is still easier in Georgia than in New York or Delaware.

The Florida political frenzy began with a similar dynamic. Early versions of the state’s controversial bill were broader, but here’s the gist of the law that passed: “Teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity by school staff or third parties is not to be provided in kindergarten through 3rd grade or so that is not age appropriate.” ” This language refutes the claim that children with gay siblings or two mothers cannot speak openly about their families.

First, CEO Bob Chapek told employees that Disney would not take a position. “As we have seen time and time again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or opinions,” he wrote. “Instead, they are often armed by one side or the other to further divide and inflame them.” But inspired by a previous tweet from former CEO Bob Iger, Disney employees went into open rebellion. Soon, Mr. Chapek is cringing in front of his subordinates, calling Florida’s bill a “challenge to basic human rights.”

He may have thought this was a free way to placate his staff, but Mr. Chapek misjudged the political moment. Republican voters who have watched companies side with the progressive agenda and silence employees who disagree are fed up. Mr. Chapek was right the first time: Disney’s political foray didn’t stop Florida law. But it infuriated a lot of people, including Disney customers and state lawmakers.


Here’s a warning to other companies, especially Big Tech and Wall Street, which are primarily based in liberal states but do business everywhere. If they try to enforce their cultural values, they risk losing Republican allies on the policy issues most important to their bottom line, such as regulation, trade, taxes, antitrust and labor laws. Polls show increasing GOP hostility to big business, and that will likely be reflected when Republicans take power.

When good tax policy can’t pass Congress because Republican voters are angry at C-suite cultural imperialism, it’s bad for the country. It’s also bad for business. The Disney lesson for CEOs is to stay out of these divisive cultural battles. The lesson for political partisans in the workplace is that their bosses run the office, not the country.

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