We’ve already taken a look at some of the massive challenges Iger will have to face as the returning CEO and the big things fans want him to tackle. One of the challenges on that list is addressing the situation with the dissolution of Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. Here are the latest updates on that district and what Bob Iger’s return could mean for Disney’s relationship with Florida politicians.
Reedy Creek 101
As a quick recap, the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) is a special district under which Disney World has operated for over 50 years. Because of this special district’s creation, the land on which Disney World sits is generally controlled/governed by the RCID and its Board.
The RCID has basically let Disney function as its own county government, giving it huge amounts of control over the imposition of taxes, the adoption of ordinances, handling pest control, contracting for professional services, and more.
Earlier in 2022, a law was passed in Florida to DISSOLVE the RCID by June of 2023 (unless a new agreement can be reached). This took place following Disney’s issuance of a statement against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill (what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). (Disney took a while to issue that statement, with Bob Chapek initially discussing why Disney would NOT issue a statement and later apologizing for not serving as a better advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.)
A lawsuit has been filed regarding the RCID’s dissolution, particularly as it could impact local citizens and how the tax burden of the RCID (including $1 billion in bond debt) could be passed on to local communities. That is still pending.
What will happen next with Reedy Creek is still a mystery. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis previously indicated that the state government would likely control the Reedy Creek District. Other sources have indicated that a successor district could be created to essentially replace the RCID, but some have suggested that any changes would be superficial and that Disney would NOT relinquish control to the state, but may be willing to give the state a representative on the new district’s board.
And that leads us to the present. Bob Iger has returned as Disney’s CEO, but how could that impact the RCID situation? Let’s take a look.
The situation with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the dissolution of the RCID all happened under Bob Chapek’s watch as CEO. CNN specifically notes that DeSantis and Disney’s feud over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is what “eventually led to” the passage of the bill that will eventually dissolve the RCID. And, overall, Chapek’s handling of the “Don’t Say Gay” situation is repeatedly listed as one of his key “political missteps” or blunders.
With Iger back, some will undoubtedly want to see him “fix” the situation or otherwise address it in a way that will benefit Disney. But things aren’t all that simple.
Maybe Iger’s Return Will Help
Some believe that Iger’s return could help the situation. According to one Tallassee insider cited by Variety, Iger’s return to Disney “probably helps.” But Variety does not go on to say exactly how it could.
Variety does call Iger’s challenge a “diplomatic mission in Florida,” and from that perspective, we could see how Iger’s return could change things. At one point, back in 2020, Iger was at the top of President Biden’s list to become an Ambassador of the United States, potentially to the UK or China. So it’s clear to see that he is viewed (at least by some) as being capable of handling major issues that would require some serious diplomacy.
Iger is a respected CEO and is seen by many as one who handles issues with a great sense of finesse. Reportedly, one executive even claims that Iger had previously indicated he didn’t realize Chapek was “such a ‘novice’ when it came to handling complex issues like…political battles, and that Chapek was arrogant and uninterested in other people’s opinions.”
Perhaps even just the change from Chapek to Iger will be enough to serve as a sort of “fresh start” between Disney’s relationship with Florida politicians.
Also, Iger isn’t just any replacement. He served as the CEO of Disney for 15 years before Chapek’s term, meaning he likely already has a relationship (or, at least, a reputation) with many Florida politicians. This could aid in smoothing things over or at least getting a resolution Disney would be happy with.
The New York Post indicated that Iger can “read a balance sheet” and may sense mood shifts Chapek otherwise did not, which could lead to some changes in how he handles the situation with Florida politicians.
But, Bob Iger’s return may not be the saving grace some expect when it comes to Disney’s issues with Florida politicians.
But Maybe Iger’s Return Will Only Cause MORE Problems
As Newsweek points out, Iger’s return could actually make the conflict between Disney and DeSantis “worse.”
Iger actually spoke up against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill SOONER than Disney (as a Company) did. Back in February of 2022, Iger retweeted a statement from President Joe Biden which criticized the bill as “hateful.” Iger stated “I’m with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.”
I'm with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy. https://t.co/fJZBzre4yM
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) February 25, 2022
According to Iger, many of these issues are not necessarily political, “it’s about right and wrong.”
Iger noted that he used a filter to determine whether or not to weigh in on big issues when he was CEO before. Iger said he would consider a variety of factors: “What would its impact have on our employees, on our shareholders and our customers?…if any one of those three constituencies had a deep interest in or would be affected by whatever was the matter at hand, then it was something I thought we should consider weighing in on.”
So it seems Iger may actually be MORE willing than Chapek to speak out on big political issues. It was also Iger who, back in 2019 while still CEO of Disney, said it would be “very difficult” to keep filming in Georgia if a new abortion law came into effect because people wouldn’t want to work there. (Reuters) Again, this shows Iger’s willingness to speak up on major issues.
That willingness may land him in a worse spot with Florida Governor DeSantis. But, Iger’s ability to handle complex issues in a finessed way should not be underestimated.
What is Iger’s existing relationship with DeSantis? How will his return impact Reedy Creek? It’s not entirely clear just yet, and Iger has not yet detailed how he’ll address the issue. Only time will tell how things will end up…and the clock, as they say, is ticking.
Other Reedy Creek Updates
In terms of other updates, we did want to note that the incoming House Speaker in Florida (Paul Renner, R), has released a plan that would make some changes to certain committees in the Florida Legislature. Part of those changes would involve creating a Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee.
According to Click Orlando, there already was a subcommittee on local administration and veterans affairs, but the addition of “special districts” to the name follows the passage of the bill that will dissolve the RCID. It seems to reflect another focus on the RCID and potential changes in special districts in the future.
The Florida Governor had also announced that he’s working on convening a special session to address property insurance in Florida, but DeSantis has also said it’ll be a “robust” agenda, according to CBS News.
That could mean that there will be more special sessions coming. A special session is expected to take place in December, and more could be arranged for January or February. The Reedy Creek dissolution and plans for a potential replacement district could be added to the agenda, but nothing has been officially announced yet.
Meanwhile, the situation with the bonds that had been issued by the RCID remains uncertain. The Orlando Business Journal shares that on November 2nd, Fitch Ratings released a report. They indicated that the RCID’s utility revenue bonds have an outstanding debt of $62.5 million, and the RCID owes $686 million in ad valorem bonds.
Fitch Ratings has kept the utility bonds on a “rating watch negative” because of the uncertainty of the whole situation. According to the report, “Fitch believes the mechanics of implementation of a dissolution scenario will be complicated, increasing the probability of negative rating action…Prolonged uncertainty with respect to dissolution procedures, litigation or other factors that alter security provisions and/or the capacity for repayment could lead to a downgrade of the RCID ratings.” They are expected to review the situation again next year.
And that’s the current situation with Reedy Creek. We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more updates. For more news about Iger’s return to Disney, click here to see what happens now that Iger is back, and click here to see celebrities’ responses to Iger’s return.
Check back with us for all the latest.
What do you think will happen next with Reedy Creek? Tell us in the comments.