Friday, July 10, 2015

The Secret Spies Of Disney World...!

Ever wonder just how far some companies would go to make a buck? I some cases, pretty far!

Part of the history of Disney World involved either real shady practices or extremely successful business sense. In reading this story, I am inclined to lean toward the shady, ya know?

The CIA Spies Behind Disney World’s Secretive, Fake Cities
By Alex Hanton on Wednesday, July 8, 2015

By the late 1950s, it was clear that theme parks were the future of Disney. The company’s first park, California’s Disneyland, had saved it from bankruptcy and was soon generating huge profits. A second location was only logical, and Walt Disney himself soon had his heart set on Florida. (A probably apocryphal legend claims that he initially wanted it in St. Louis but changed his mind after feeling insulted by local Budweiser executives.) But there were challenges to be faced: Disneyland was such a huge money-spinner that local landowners were sure to jack up their prices once they heard Walt was sniffing around for a second space. Additionally, Walt was furious that cheap hotels and businesses had sprung up around his California location, ruining the ambiance. In Florida, he wanted to be in complete control.

To help him achieve that, Walt turned to two of the most notorious spies in American history. William “Wild Bill” Donovan was the founder of the OSS, the World War II–era spy agency that eventually morphed into the CIA. As such, he has a serious claim to be the founder of modern US espionage. By the late ‘50s, Donovan had been unceremoniously retired from government service and was heading up his own law firm, which Disney quickly hired.

He also hired Paul Helliwell, an incredibly shady figure who ran CIA front operations in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean and who usually shows up in the various conspiracy theories about CIA drug trafficking. Helliwell’s job was to use his CIA experience to set up a number of shell companies, which would be able to buy land in central Florida without anybody realizing it was really being bought by Disney.

That part of the plan went off without a hitch, with Helliwell snapping up land for as low as $80 an acre while Donovan’s law firm ran a disinformation campaign to prevent anyone working out who was really behind the purchases. When word finally got out that the land was for Disney, the price ballooned up to $80,000 an acre, but by that point the space for the park had been acquired at an average of just $200 an acre. But Disney still needed to make sure he completely controlled the land—and that meant getting the government out of the picture as well. Luckily, Helliwell had a solution.

The CIA man advised Disney to set up “puppet governments” in the form of two fake cities. Since nobody actually lived in the area, Disney would just need to place a couple of hand-picked employees in the cities to totally control the local government. This was probably illegal and arguably unconstitutional, but with the aid of a compliant state legislature, the cities (Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista) were duly incorporated. They still exist today, with a combined population of 44 people, all of them Disney employees, or retired employees, or the children of employees. The citizens elect officials and decide what ordinances to pass, but “if they didn’t vote Disney’s way regularly, you can be sure they wouldn’t be Disney employees or living on Disney property much longer.” By controlling the cities, Disney controls local government, making Walt Disney World a magical kingdom indeed.

I reckon that good business sense means making sure that all your neighbors are getting their paychecks and guidance from the same place. Nothing like being in total control, I guess.

Coffee out on the patio once more!


Anonymous said...

Shady indeed but smart :-)

Have a great day!

Chickenmom said...

Only $80.00 an acre? Bet they are kicking themselves now!

linda m said...

I do remember ready something about how Walt Disney bought up the land for Disney World. But I didn't know about the fake cities. He definitely was a shrewd business man - shady but shrewd. Have a wonderful weekend.

Crystal Mary said...

There is a lot hidden behind the scene's of many companies.. and much evil also.

Hermit's Baby Sis said...

Sounds like good business practice to me, Bubba. Keep a secret where you going to build, then buy it up. Bet New York City wishes they had done that - maybe we wouldn't have red-light hotels in the middle of the theatre district, just next door to the 50 cent souvenir shops.
I was in Disneyworld in March, and wish all cities could be run this well - clean and with happy employees.
Big hugs -

Rob said...

A man bringing his dream to life & learning from his mistakes.
I'll bet those families that sold the land cheap (and the St Louis guys) don't have anything nice to say about Walt!
Donovan had a successful law practice before went into govt service in WW2 (OSS). After they disbanded the OSS he just went back to civilian life.

Rob said...

A man bringing his dream to life & learning from his mistakes.
I'll bet those families that sold the land cheap (and the St Louis guys) don't have anything nice to say about Walt!
Donovan had a successful law practice before went into govt service in WW2 (OSS). After they disbanded the OSS he just went back to civilian life.

HermitJim said...

Hey Christer...
He was a smart man, for sure.
Thanks for stopping in today!

Hey Phyllis...
Someone certainly made a killing on that deal.
Thanks for stopping in this morning!

Hey Linda...
I guess that all successful business men are a tad shady. Gotta be, I reckon.
Thanks for dropping by today!

Hey Crystal Mary...
I reckon you are certainly correct about that!
Thanks so much for coming over today!

Hey Sis...
Walt certainly handled things with a good plan, it seems. Looks like he covered most of the bases.
Thanks for the visit this morning.

Hey Rob...
Lots of people probably wish they had done things differently.
Thanks, man, for coming over today!

JO said...

Never knew any of this stuff! But you don't get rich by not being super smart and throw in some evil.

Still rianing here so I am heading for your patio.

Mamahen said...

Always knew he had to be smart but didn't know just how shrewd he was :)) Rain here me a seat i'm on my way :))

Dizzy-Dick said...

Never knew that about Disney. A guy who got rich making cartoons and movies for children. Go figure.

HermitJim said...

Hey Jo...
He certainly knew the right folks to hire and take care of the shady stuff. Having the right contacts makes a big difference.
Thanks, sweetie, for stopping in today!

Hey Mamahen...
My guess is that he fooled a lot of people over the years.
Thanks for coming by this morning!

Hey Dizzy...
Guess that there are many things we will never know going on behind the scenes.
Thanks for ther visit today!