Disney scraps plans for $1.5 billion campus in dispute with Florida governor
Disney has upped the ante in its battle with Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, and it cost his state 2,000 white-collar jobs.
Disney is scrapping plans to build a $1.5 billion office complex in Florida, citing "changing business conditions," according to a memo provided by a Disney spokesperson.
The decision comes at a time when the company is openly feuding with DeSantis, who is expected to officially enter the 2024 Republican presidential race next week, CNN reports.
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A spokesperson for DeSantis said it was "unsurprising" that Disney would cancel the project "given the company's financial straits, falling market cap and declining stock price".
Disney, along with the broader media industry, is grappling with a difficult advertising environment and a massive writers strike. Earlier this year it announced it would be cutting 7,000 jobs as part of a cost-cutting effort.
Separately, the company confirmed on Thursday that it would shut down its Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort at Disney World just over a year after it opened.
The popular attraction "will take its final voyage" at the end of September, Disney said, adding that it is working with guests to rebook reservations for later in the year.
The campus in Lake Nona, Florida, in the greater Orlando area, was expected to add 2,000 jobs, many of which were set to be relocated from California.
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"It is unfortunate that Disney will not be moving forward with construction of the Lake Nona campus," Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings said in a statement.
"However, these are the consequences when there isn't an inclusive and collaborative work environment between the state of Florida and the business community. We will continue to work closely with our valued partners at Disney."
The head of the state's Democratic party slammed the governor's "unhinged personal vendetta against Disney" for costing Florida 2,000 jobs and millions in additional revenue.
"DeSantis has single-handedly and decidedly made Florida an anti-business state," said Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried in a statement. "Unfortunately, today's news isn't a shock for those of us who have been living through his reign of terror, and Floridians are already paying a high price."
Disney (DIS) and DeSantis have been sparring for over a year about controversial legislation the governor signed that restricts the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Critics have labelled the law "Don't Say Gay".
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The fight has intensified in recent months after DeSantis moved to take over the company's special tax district setting rules for Disney World and surrounding areas.
DeSantis has tried to install a hand-picked board to oversee the district. Before the Florida government selected the board in February, Disney had reached agreements with the outgoing board that limited the power of DeSantis' appointees.
The two sides are now locked in a legal battle, with Disney arguing in its federal lawsuit that the actions by DeSantis and the state of Florida were a violation of its First Amendment rights to free speech.
Last month, Disney CEO Bob Iger told shareholders at its annual meeting that he believed DeSantis' actions to punish Disney, one of the state's largest employers, were "anti-business" and "anti-Florida."
And on a call with investors following its quarterly earnings report last week, Iger suggested that DeSantis and Florida's legislature was putting at risk the company's plans to invest $26 billion in Florida, and create 13,000 jobs, over the next 10 years.
"Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?" Iger asked rhetorically during that investor call.
Following those comments, Disney did not respond to inquires as to whether it was changing those Florida investment plans. Thursday's announcement was perhaps a first step in changing those plans.
Disney's stock rose slightly after its announcement.