Disney Scraps Plans to Build $900 Million Florida Campus Amid DeSantis Feud, Cites ‘Changing Business Conditions;’

Disney is canceling plans to build a nearly $900 million corporate campus in Lake Nona, Florida, citing “changing business conditions.”

Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences, and products division, announced the decision to scrap plans to build the campus, which would have housed roughly 2,000 employees, in an email to workers on May 18.

The email was shared on social media and widely reported.

“Given the considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions, we have decided not to move forward,” D’Amaro said. “This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one. As a result, we will no longer be asking our employees to relocate.”

D’Amaro noted that employees who had already relocated to Florida will be spoken to individually by senior management regarding a potential move back to Burbank, California, where Disney is headquartered.

“It is clear to me that the power of this brand comes from our incredible people, and we are committed to handling this change with care and compassion,” he said.

D’Amaro added that the company still plans to invest $17 billion in Florida over the next 10 years and create an additional 13,000 jobs.

“I hope we’re able to do so,” he wrote.

Disney currently employs more than 75,000 people in the state.

Disney Results
People visit the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on April 18, 2022. (Ted Shaffrey/AP Photo)

Florida ‘Has Long Been Home’

D’Amaro initially announced Disney’s plans to construct the corporate campus, located roughly 20 miles from the giant Walt Disney World theme park resort, in July 2021 in order to take advantage of roughly $570 million in tax breaks.

The campus, which would house employees, including its Imagineers who design theme park rides, was relocated from its California headquarters and was expected to open by the end of 2022 or early 2023 but was later delayed to 2026.

The company was expected to splash out as much as $864 million on the project, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“With more than 60,000 Cast Members, Imagineers, and employees, Central Florida has long been home to many of our businesses including the Walt Disney World Resort and most of our Disney Signature Experiences team,” D’Amaro said at the time. “It is also where members of other DPEP businesses reside, including Consumer Products, Games and Publishing, and Walt Disney Imagineering, and serves as the hub for many support functions that assist our segment and the entire company.”

Plans to scrap the construction come amid Disney’s ongoing legal battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, initially sparked by former CEO, Bob Chapek’s criticism of the state’s Parental Rights in Education Bill, or HB 1557, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was signed into law by DeSantis on March 28.

The law bans instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools for kindergarten through third grade. Dinsey has voiced opposition to the bill.

NTD Photo
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 10, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

DeSantis Says Disney’s Move ‘Unsurprising’

DeSantis, who is expected to soon announce that he will seek the 2024 Republican nomination for U.S. president, later moved to strip Disney of its long-standing self-governing power status in Florida, including its tax exemptions and the right to avoid state regulatory reviews and approvals, through legislation passed by lawmakers, arguing that the company should not receive special treatment in the state.

DeSantis appointed a new board of supervisors. However, shortly before the planned takeover by DeSantis appointees, Disney found a way to strip the new board of many of its powers by entering into development and restrictive covenant agreements with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc.

The Florida Republican and Disney have been locked in a fierce legal battle since.

Commenting on Disney’s recent announcement, DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern told the Washington Post, “Given the company’s financial straits, falling market cap, and declining stock price, it is unsurprising that they would restructure their business operations and cancel unsuccessful ventures.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call on May 10 that it lost four million subscribers in the second quarter, bringing the total to 157.8 million, down from 161.8 million in the previous quarter, marking continued declines seen in the last quarter of 2022.

Newsom Weighs In on Disney Decision

However, the company reported (pdf) revenue of $21.8 billion in the recent quarter, up 13 percent year-over-year.

California governor Gavin Newsom weighed in on Disney’s latest announcement on Twitter, writing Thursday, “Turns out, bigoted policies have consequences. That’s 2,000+ jobs that will be welcomed back with open arms to the Golden State. Thank you for doing the right thing, Disney.”

Elsewhere, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings called the announcement “unfortunate.”

“It is unfortunate that Disney will not be moving forward with the construction of the Lake Nona campus. However, these are the consequences when there isn’t an inclusive and collaborative work environment between the state of Florida and the business community,” Demings said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with our valued partners at Disney.”

Elsewhere Florida Sen. Joe Gruters, a former chairman of the state Republican Party, called Disney’s decision a huge loss.

“I hope we can put this conflict behind us and get back to a more normal working relationship with a company that’s been one of our best business and tourism partners that we’ve had over the last 50 years,” Gruters said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Two thousand jobs and a billion dollars worth of investments into our state, I would say that’s a serious blow. The market is much better at dealing with companies rather than heavy-handed government.”

The Epoch Times has contacted Disney for comment.

From The Epoch Times

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