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Disney's got a few problems ahead. First up, they're caught in a battle with (Big) Ron DeSantis, current Governor of Florida and likely 2024 US presidential candidate.
Basically, Ron & the gang passed a bill that bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for many young students:
Formally called the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, the Florida measure bars classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for children in kindergarten through third grade, or from about ages 5-9, in public schools.
It also prohibits such teaching that "is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate" for students in other grades.
The legislation was controversial, (because everything is now), and was renamed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by activists.
When the bill originally passed, Disney tried the corporate "say nothing and hope it blows over" trick. Their employees were having none of it.
Disney bowed to pressure. In a statement they vowed to work on reversing the legislation: “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that” .
Disney also said it would said it would suspend political donations in Florida pending a review.
Which instantly made them public enemy #1 for the Republicans.
In response, Ron & the crew fast-tracked a bill to strip Disney of their 'self-governing status'.
It's More Than A Special Tax Status
Reports are focusing on Disney's 'special tax status' but there's a load more to the story.
Back in the 1950's, the original Disneyland (Anaheim) was popular. So popular, it ended up surrounded by tacky hotels, gift shops, and restaurants.
That wasn't Walt's dream. He wanted an immersive experience for the guests. Learning from his mistakes, he went down to Florida and covertly snapped up a load of swampland, distributing the purchases through different corporations to keep it quiet...
He ended up with 27,000 acres (later 30,000). That's 47 square miles of beautiful swampland. About 1,100 acres is theme parks, and 7,100 has been developed.
So he got his buffer zone. He also got his own autonomous government.
Disney was given permission to establish their own, autonomous government, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
This quasi-government gave Disney the ability to create their own building codes, do his own zoning and planning of roads and bridges, and create his own residential community, among other perks.
TL;DR We'll bring money, create jobs, and generally improve the state of Florida. In exchange, you get out of the way so we can just crack on. No bureaucracy.
Disney, whose Florida resort is known the world over for its pristine streets, colourful rides and family-friendly image, in turn gets relief from taxes and fees.
The special status also allows the district to issue bonds with tax advantages to pay for improvements and for Disney to avoid the process of obtaining building permits for some projects.
And that's where it gets tricky. Actually revoking Disney's special status.
To fund the government services of Reedy Creek, Disney effectively taxes itself. While the precise tax flows of Reedy Creek are unclear, Scott Randolph, the tax collector for Orange County, said the Reedy Creek district collects roughly $105 million annually in general revenue.
On top of the $105 million, Disney also pays local property taxes. Public records show Disney is the largest taxpayer in central Florida, paying over $280 million in property taxes to the counties between 2015 and 2020.
Wrap your head around that. Disney effectively asks itself for permission to do what it wants & taxes itself to pay for the local services Disney provides... 🤯
Given the legal complexity required to unravel this status and the risks of potentially inflicting real-world consequences on the state's largest private employer this is probably all hot air.
Also known as "politics". 👇
“Disney is a cautionary tale about ideological capture,” Rufo told me. “Disney executives created identity-based activist organizations within the company, delegated moral authority to their representatives, and now those groups have taken the corporation hostage to their ideologies. They wield ‘trauma’ and ‘oppression’; the white male CEO caves.”
Rufo said a number of Disney employees told him “the company has totally gone off the rails. From critical race theory to gender ideology, executives are pushing extreme left-wing activism in every facet of the company, from erasing the words ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ from its theme parks to tracking ‘canonical trans characters’ in its children’s programs.”
Disney has painted a giant target on their backs, and could well end up as the poster-child for 'woke' corporate capture. Just the kind of 'enemy' a potential Republican presidential candidate could use...
The whole streaming growth thing...
The success of Disney+ has been a big part of the recent Disney growth story.
The streaming service launched just in time to catch the pandemic demand and quickly reached 130 million subscribers.
Disney is targeting 230 to 260 million subscribers by 2024. Netflix has just topped out at 220 million.
Disney will report earnings on the 11th of May with the stock already trading below pre-Covid levels 👇
And to make things worse, Cramer's given them the kiss of death... 👇
All of that aside, Disney has a huge number of strings to their bow 👇
Turbulence ahead, but Disney has an exceptionally strong business and brand to see them through. Maybe they'll even buy Netflix in a few years for the fairytale ending?
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