Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivers a speech at The Heritage Foundation's 50th anniversary Leadership Summit at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, M.D., U.S., April 21, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

Walt Disney Co sued Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, asking a court to overturn state efforts to exert control over the company's Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando.

The action comes as the oversight board DeSantis appointed to oversee development in and around Walt Disney World in central Florida endorsed a legal opinion that declared as void an agreement that laid the foundation for billions of dollars in future development of the theme park.

"The company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials," the company said in its lawsuit.

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A spokesperson for DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ongoing effort by DeSantis and his supporters to exert control over Disney began last year after the company criticized a state law banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools.

Disney shares were little changed in market action Wednesday.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has called the retaliation against the company "anti-business" and anti-Florida." The company employs roughly 75,000 people in the state.

State Republicans last year targeted Disney after it publicly clashed with DeSantis, widely considered a 2024 presidential candidate.

Florida lawmakers passed legislation that ended Disney's virtual autonomy in developing 25,000 acres in central Florida where its theme parks are located.

But before the takeover by DeSantis' appointees, Disney pushed through changes to the special tax district agreement that limit the board's action for decades.