Disney Pulls Game of Thrones Moves on DeSantis with Royal Lives Clause
House Tyrell Would Be Proud: As Governor DeSantis tries to strip Disney World of its autonomy, he’s thwarted by a document that references the royal family.
The great Disney World vs. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis war has seen many twists and turns, but here’s one that evokes the British royal family.
In February, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to control Disney World’s special taxing district, ending decades of Walt Disney Corp. operating under municipal status. However, according to Orlando Sentinel, on Feb. 8 — a day before the Legislature was set to create the DeSantis-appointed “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District” — the Disney Taxing District Board made a power move worthy of the House of Tyrell.
It approved a 30-year development agreement that effectively renders CFTOD powerless, according to its lawyers. Under the deal, Disney can build high-density projects and buildings of any height, and sell or transfer development rights, all without board approval. It even forbids the use of the Disney name or “fantasy characters like Mickey Mouse” on the sign.
“Game of Thrones” is a fantasy show (and one that doesn’t belong to Disney), but the studio has gone so far as to include real-life royalties in its plan with a clause that says the deal is valid for “21 years.” III. After the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles of England.” In layman’s terms, the CFTOD board must wait out the lifetimes of King Charles, his sons William and Harry, and his five grandchildren, and any other successors—and then wait 21 years—for the agreement to expire.
A royal bloodline, Disney’s very bizarre way to nod to the Magic Kingdom and its lucrative Disney princesses? Maybe! (Disney did not respond to an email seeking comment.) The Royal Lives clause is a contract clause that dates back to 1692 in Great Britain, and is most commonly used in the UK; it is more commonly used in the states as a life clause for presidents.
Most often with trusts it is seen as a way to avoid the rules of the common law of perpetuity. The “21 years later” deadline comes from the stipulation that legal documents transferring ownership of real estate are invalid 21 years after the death of the primary recipient. The Royal Lives clause allows lawyers to set a deadline that never expires.
According to an unsigned statement from Disney obtained by the Sentinel, “All agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and discussed and approved in open, substantial public forums consistent with the Florida Government’s Sunshine Law.”
Disney’s development deal is certainly a creative way to block DeSantis and his board, but they’re not amused. According to the Sentinel, attorneys for the district held a legal briefing on March 29 announcing legal action against Disney.
“We need to address it and fix it,” board member Brian Aungst Jr. said during the presentation, according to the Sentinel. “This is a subversion of the will of the voters, the legislature and the governor. It completely bypasses the governing authority of this body.”
The legal dispute between Disney and Florida began a year ago when then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek criticized DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education Act, which prohibits discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in schools. Chapek initially remained silent on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and only publicly protested after employees organized walkouts. The reversal caused DeSantis to rescind the law that allowed DisneyWorld to be self-governing, first created in 1967.
Disney did not reserve all rights. According to the Sentinel, Disney will no longer be able to tax itself to cover park services — a primary point of contention in DeSantis’ bid to take control of the district. Even royal intrigue has its limits.
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