The Windows on Main Street: Companies Who Bought the World

Yes, this post is all about companies (and the man/men behind those companies). You might be wondering, “What do they have to do with Walt Disney World?” Well, that’s what this series is all about, informing you of the random details you might not know all about (even I don’t know who some of these windows feature). The window reads as follows:


M.T. Lott Co.
Real Estate Investments
“A Friend in Deeds is a Friend Indeed”
Donn Tatum President
Tomahawk Properties
Latin American Development
Ayefour Corporation
Bay Lake Properties
Reedy Creek Ranch Lands
Compass East Corporation


Some of these companies might sound familiar to you: it’s because they’re the dummy companies used to purchase the land Walt Disney World currently sits on. Donn Tatum was the first non-family member to head the Walt Disney Company. He was also the very first President of Walt Disney World.

The Man Behind the World:

We’ll start off with Donn Tatum. He was born in Los Angeles on January 9, 1913. He earned his bachelors in political science/economics from Standford and then got a Bachelors and Masters degree in jurisprudence from Oxford University in England. When he passed the bar in 1938 (at the ripe age of 25), he went on to work with radio and television interests at the Lillick, Geary, and McHose law firm. He was then hired to be a consultant with RCA, NBC, and ABC (shaping legislation to mold the way TV rights would be used). He then became the general manager of KABC-TV in LA (and western television director for ABC). 

When Tatum was 43, he was recruited by Walt Disney to be a production business manager, later serving on the Board of Directors before taking control of the company when Roy O. Disney died. As President, Tatum tried to uphold the traditions and business practices used by the Disney family. During his reign, he saw the Florida project completed as well as the beginning of the Tokyo Project. When Ron Miller took over, Tatum moved on to be the first president of the Walt Disney World Company. Tatum also took some time to be the chairman of Disney’s executive committee, chairman of the board at The California Institute of the Arts, and president of the Disney Foundation.

So, that’s Donn Tatum. Did you notice that he was the first President of the Walt Disney World Company and not any of the companies listed on his window? That’s because, in reality, those companies are the parts that make up the whole. What am I talking about? M.T. Lott Co. Real Estate Investments (“empty lot”), Compass East Corporation, Tomahawk Properties, Latin American Development, Ayefour Corporation (I-4), Bay Lake Properties (Bay Lake Tower sound familiar?), and the Reedy Creek Ranch Lands make up the Walt Disney World Company. 

The Lands Behind the World:

Compass East Corporation was incorporated in Delaware on December 7, 1964. The Latin-American Development and Management Corporation; the Ayefour Corporation; Tomahawk Properties, Incorporated; Reedy Creek Ranch, Incorporated; and Bay Lake Properties, Incorporated, were all established in Florida, but were merged into the Compass East Corporation on September 30, 1966. The purpose of these companies was to buy up land for the Florida project at relatively cheap prices. If the landowners had known that Disney was buying up land for a new project, the price per acre for the land would have skyrocketed. 

With all this new land bought, there had to be some company to manage it. So Disney created the Reedy Creek Drainage District (incorporated on May 13, 1966), which was later renamed the Reedy Creek Improvement District. On September 26, 1967, the Compass East Corporation was renamed the Walt Disney World Company (this happened around the time that the Florida project was made public). 

In September of 1997, the Walt Disney World Company was reincorporated in Florida (from Delaware). In 1998, the Ranch and Grove Holding Corporation was merged into the Walt Disney Company. In 1999, Reedy Creek Energy Services, Incorporated, originally known as the Reedy Creek Utilities Company, Incorporated, was merged into the Walt Disney World Company. In 2000, the last pseudo-company that held deeds to land in Walt Disney world, the MDMP Corporation, was merged into the Walt Disney World Company.