Retlaw Enterprises
Company typePrivate
IndustryMedia, Real Estate
Founded1950; 74 years ago (1950)[1]
FounderWalt Disney
Defunct2005; 19 years ago (2005)
United States
Total assets~$150 million (1990)[2]
SubsidiariesRetlaw Broadcasting Corp.

Retlaw Enterprises, originally Walt Disney Miniature Railroad, then Walt Disney, Inc. (WDI), and then WED Enterprises (WED), was a privately held company owned by the heirs of entertainment mogul Walt Disney.[3] Disney formed the company to control the rights to his name and to manage two Disneyland attractions that he personally owned. The name, Retlaw, is Walter spelled backwards.[2]


Walt Disney Miniature Railroad was formed by Walt Disney in 1950 to manage the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, his elaborate backyard miniature railroad.[1] The company's name was changed to Walt Disney, Inc. (WDI) on December 16, 1952, and its purpose was changed to supposedly produce TV shows.[4] However, he soon started the Disneyland designing and engineering division within WDI. He also assigned the rights to his name and likeness to the company, as well as ownership of the Disneyland Railroad, Mark Twain Steamboat, Viewliner Train of Tomorrow (defunct), and Disneyland Monorail attractions in Disneyland.[5][6][7] Roy O. Disney objected to Walt's creation of the company as he considered it a diversion of a larger portion of the Walt Disney Productions income to Walt's family. WDI charged a licensing fee to the Disney company for 5% to 10% of the income from all of Disney's merchandising deals.[2] In light of objections from Roy as well as those of potential stockholders, WDI was renamed WED Enterprises (WED) in 1953 based on Walt's initials of Walter Elias Disney.[4]

Walt also licensed Zorro TV rights from Mitchell in February 1953.[8] WED Enterprises developed some scripts for the proposed Zorro TV series and shopped the series to the CBS and NBC TV networks. Both networks requested to see a pilot show. However, with the construction of Disneyland ongoing, the Zorro show was put on hold,[9][10] and the rights were sold later that year to Walt Disney Productions.[11]

In July 1953, Clement Melancon, a small shareholder of Walt Disney Productions stock, took Walt Disney and WED Enterprises, to court over the WED deal, believing that Walt had improperly funneled profits from Walt Disney Productions.[12] The case was settled in January 1955.[13]

In 1961, the park design group, the future Walt Disney Imagineering, opened a creative workshop in the Grand Central Business Park.[14]


The theme park design and architectural group became so integral to Walt Disney Productions' operations that the studio bought it on February 5, 1965, along with the WED Enterprises name. Thus the Corporation needed a new name, Retlaw Enterprises.[3][15][16][17]

In 1968, Retlaw started to diversify by acquiring its first TV station with its Fresno station purchase.[2]

Finally, in 1982, the Disney family sold the naming rights and rail-based attractions to Walt Disney Productions for 818,461 shares of Disney, stock then worth $42.6 million, none of which went to Retlaw. Retlaw's remaining divisions, after the majority of the company was sold to Walt's larger public company, were several television stations and real estate holdings that continue to be owned by the Disney family. Per Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Retlaw received $75 million in net income from the monorail and railroad from 1955 to late 1981. Roy E. Disney objected to the overvalued purchase price of the naming rights and voted against the purchase as a Disney board director.[2]

By 1990, Retlaw holdings included 6 CBS affiliated TV stations, a small jet charter service operating out of Van Nuys Airport, 580 acres of farmland in Palmdale, 220 acres of vacant land in Riverside County, and 330 acres of avocado groves in Riverside County and Escondido. The family shares received in 1982 would be in 1990 2% of the Disney stock, worth an estimated $300 million; while Forbes estimates their stock to be worth $600 million, down from 1989's $850 million.[2]

WFXG was purchased in May 1998.[18] In 1999 Retlaw sold its remaining 11 television stations to Fisher Communications, including all of the related assets to those properties, for $215 million in cash.[19]

In 2005, the remaining divisions of Retlaw officially became part of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, a non-profit organization led by Diane Disney Miller.


Retlaw Broadcasting Corp.

Retlaw Broadcasting acquired KIMA-TV and its two semi-satellite stations, KLEW-TV and KEPR-TV, for $17 million in October 1986.[21] The six stations owned in 1990 had purchased, over the years, for $37 million, and were estimated then to be worth $100 million.[2]

In 1996, Retlaw Broadcasting acquired KVAL-TV, KVAL semi-satellite stations KCBY and KPIC, as well as station KBOI-TV, all from Northwest Television of Eugene, Oregon.[22]

Retlaw Broadcasting purchased WFXG in May 1998,[18] its last acquisition before agreeing, in November 1998, to sell all 11 of its stations to Fisher Companies (later known as Fisher Communications) for $215 million.[23] The deal was approved by the FCC in April 1999,[24] and completed in July 1999.[25]

City of license / Market Station
  • Years
  • owned
Current status
FresnoVisalia, California KJEO 47 (34) 1968–1999 CBS affiliate KGPE owned by Nexstar Media Group
MontereySalinas, California KMST 46 (32) 1979–1993 CBS affiliate KION-TV owned by News-Press & Gazette Company
Augusta, Georgia WFXG 54 (36) 1998–1999 Fox affiliate owned by Lockwood Broadcast Group
Columbus, Georgia WXTX 54 (24) 1998–1999 Fox affiliate owned by American Spirit Media, LLC[a]
Boise, Idaho KBCI-TV 2 (9) 1996–1999 CBS affiliate KBOI-TV owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Idaho FallsPocatello, Idaho KIDK 3 (36) 1988–1999 Dabl affiliate owned by VistaWest Media, LLC[b]
KLEW-TV[c] 3 (32) 1986–1999 CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Eugene, Oregon KVAL-TV 13 (13) 1996–1999 CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Coos Bay, Oregon KCBY[d] 11 (13) 1996–1999 CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Roseburg, Oregon KPIC[d] 4 (19) 1996–1999 CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
PascoRichlandKennewick, Washington KEPR-TV[c] 18 (19) 1986–1999 CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Yakima, Washington KIMA-TV 29 (33) 1986–1999 CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
  1. ^ Operated through a SSA by Gray Television.
  2. ^ Operated through a SSA by News-Press & Gazette Company.
  3. ^ a b KIMA semi-satellite.
  4. ^ a b KVAL semi-satellite.
This list does not include KCAL-TV in Los Angeles. Rather than Retlaw Broadcasting Corporation, that station (previously known as KHJ-TV) was owned directly by The Walt Disney Company from 1989 to 1996.


  1. ^ a b Broggie 2014, p. 173.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Peltz, James F. (October 2, 1990). "The Wonderful World of Disney's Other Firm : Entertainment: Walt Disney created a separate company for his family. Retlaw Enterprises Inc. is now worth hundreds of millions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Broggie 2014, p. 174.
  4. ^ a b Aberdeen, J. A. (2000). "Disneyland". Hollywood Renegades. Cobblestone Entertainment. ISBN 1-890110-24-8. Retrieved May 5, 2015. Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades (
  5. ^ Amendola 2015, p. 145.
  6. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 103.
  7. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 293.
  8. ^ Curtis 1998, pp. 118–119.
  9. ^ Curtis 1998, p. 119.
  10. ^ Thomas, Bob (July 15, 1998). Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire. Disney Editions. p. 181. ISBN 9780786862009.
  11. ^ Curtis 1998, p. 120.
  12. ^ Eliot 1993, p. 216.
  13. ^ Eliot 1993, p. 220.
  14. ^ Kleinbaum, Josh (May 12, 2004). "Bringing magic to San Fernando". Glendale News Press. Tribume Publishing. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  15. ^ Smith, Dave (1998). Disney A to Z - The Updated Official Encyclopedia. Hyperion Books. pp. 467, 601. ISBN 0786863919.
  16. ^ Stewart, James (2005). Disney War. Simon & Schuster. pp. 41. ISBN 9780684809939.
  17. ^ Gabler, Neal (2006). Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. Knopf. pp. 629. ISBN 9780679438229.
  18. ^ a b Witsil, Frank (November 16, 1999). "Fox station changes hands". The Augusta Chronicle. Morris Communications. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  19. ^ Vrana, Debrora (November 19, 1998). "Fisher Cos. Is Expected to Buy Retlaw's 11 TV Stations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  20. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 29.
  21. ^ "Changing Hands" (PDF). Broadcasting. October 27, 1986. p. 116. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  22. ^ "Disney chain to buy KVAL". Eugene Register-Guard. October 31, 1995. pp. 1A and 5A. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  23. ^ "Fisher to pay Retlaw $215 million for 11 TV stations". The New York Times. Reuters. November 20, 1998. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  24. ^ FCC Record: A Comprehensive Compilation of Decisions ..., Volume 14, Issue 12, FCC, April 16, 1999, pp. 6667–6679, retrieved January 14, 2020
  25. ^ "Fisher Companies Inc. Acquires the Eleven Television Stations of Retlaw Broadcasting L.L.C." (Press release). Seattle: Fisher Companies. Business Wire. July 2, 1999. Retrieved June 8, 2016 – via The Free Library.