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Businessweek Archives

Casting Mickey As The Villain


Up Front: SLUGFESTS

CASTING MICKEY AS THE VILLAIN

Francis Heidrich Sr. thinks his business partner, multinational Disney, is treating him with the cavalier disregard that Cinderella got from her stepsisters. Heidrich, the head of a Central Florida citrus dynasty, enlisted Walt Disney in 1990 to design and build a $747 million commercial and residential complex called Magnolia Creek near Orlando, where Disney World created incredible growth when it opened in 1971.

Then Heidrich saw Disney's blueprints: Magnolia Creek's mix is heavier on housing than he contends he asked for. Housing, he says, is an oversaturated market in the Orlando area. Disney delayed filing for government permits, Heidrich complains, and when it did, Disney used the plan he hadn't approved. According to Heidrich, the giant company simply recycled plans from the huge development it plans next door, called Celebration City. Heidrich complains about the "total lack of creativity." So he's suing Disney for $68 million in damages.

Disney has a history of getting its way in the Orlando area, where it's the No.1 employer. It hasn't filed a legal response, but it dismisses Heidrich's suit as without merit.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER Fernando Battaglia


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