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Disneyland Paris ‘at war’ with investors over royalties and licences

Disneyland Paris is reported to be at war with its investors over allegations it has paid out almost €1 billion in excess charges for royalties and licences to Walt Disney.

The resort, listed in France but majority-owned by the US media and theme park giant, has come under siege from Charity Investment Asset Management (CIAM), a French hedge fund.

CIAM, which is leading a cluster of activists, claims Walt Disney has siphoned off the cash and prevented the resort operator from making a profit — abusing the rights of minority shareholders in Disneyland Paris, The Sunday Times reported.

It is also claimed Disneyland Paris has obscured the true value of thousands of acres of land it is developing around Paris. The accusations are the subject of two court cases due to be heard early next year.

Walt Disney and its subsidiaries are accused of misusing corporate assets in a private criminal prosecution.

A second civil case against Walt Disney is demanding the repayment of €930 million of charges in the past decade.

Disneyland Paris said it considers all the allegations raised by the hedge fund to be “false and unfounded”.

The hedge funds led by CIAM are believed to own about 3% of Disneyland Paris, a position built up over the past 18 months.

Walt Disney increased its shareholding in Disneyland Paris last year to about 76%. About 10% of the remaining shares are held by Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding, led by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

In the year to September 30, the resort lost €858 million, much of which was attributed to the sharp decline in tourism following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Disneyland Paris has been profitable in only seven years since it opened in 1992, despite claiming to be one of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions with more than 13 million annual visitors.

Anne-Sophie d’Andlau, CIAM’s co-founder, told the newspaper that the main reason for the regular losses is that Walt Disney has overcharged for royalties, which are collected by the company in return for the right to use characters such as Mickey Mouse, Snow White and Donald Duck in the resort.

Walt Disney has said it will not charge Disneyland Paris royalties in 2016 in light of the Paris attacks.

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