A board picked by Florida’s governor to oversee Disney’s Orlando theme parks says it has been neutered by a last-minute contract with a royal clause.
Disney ran the district for over half a century until Florida legislators punished the conglomerate for slamming state laws regulating sex education.
But the new board says its authority has been bypassed by restrictive covenants that cite King Charles III.
The Republican-aligned board is hiring lawyers to settle the matter.
“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” board member Brian Aungst said on Wednesday at a public meeting.
He called Disney’s actions “a naked attempt to circumvent the will of the voters and the will of the Florida Legislature”.
In a brief statement, Disney said “all agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums”.
The previous Disney-controlled board was known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and it ran the sprawling theme park resort in central Florida.
It approved the now-disputed agreement on 8 February, the day before the state’s Republican-led legislature voted to empower the governor to pick his own board to oversee the 27,000 acres.
The newly created Central Florida Tourism Oversight District says the binding agreement passed last month by the previous board hands Disney total power over development of the area.
The declaration is valid until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England”, according to the document.
Such so-called royal lives clauses have been inserted into legal documentation since the late 17th Century, and they are still found in some contracts in the UK, though rarely in the US.
The 151-page Florida agreement also states that no “fanciful characters” owned by Disney, including Mickey Mouse, can be used by the board. The use of the name Disney is also banned.
The new board’s chairman, Martin Garcia, told an NBC affiliate that they may have to challenge the agreement in “protracted litigation”.
Disney made a political enemy of the governor after criticising the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, signed by Mr DeSantis last April.
The measure bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for pupils aged nine and under.
Supporters of the bill said it protects children from inappropriate content. Opponents dub the legislation “Don’t Say Gay” and say it stigmatises LGBT youth.
The culture war between Mr DeSantis and Disney has helped elevate the governor’s profile as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate.
Source : BBC