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Citing “changing business conditions,” Disney on Thursday shelved plans to construct a new campus in Florida, according to a company spokesperson.
Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, sent an email to employees Thursday notifying them that the company will not be building its blueprinted billion dollar office complex in Lake Nona.
He said since the announcement of the plans in 2021, the company has undergone “considerable” changes, including “new leadership and changing business conditions,” that led to the decision.
The decision comes at a time when the company is openly feuding with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is rumored to officially enter the 2024 GOP presidential race next week, according to CNN.
It’s also tense time for Disney as the media industry grapples with a difficult advertising environment and a massive writers strike. Earlier this year the entertainment behemoth announced it would be eliminating 7,000 jobs as part of a cost-cutting effort.
The Disney campus in Lake Nona, Florida, in the greater Orlando area, was expected to add 2,000 jobs
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 labeled the law “Don’t Say Gay.”
Many once longtime Floridians have contemplated exiting the Sunshine state, some have already made the exodus for a fairer and safer place to live. Dwyane Wade stated he knew his family “would not be accepted or feel comfortable there” because of anti-LGBTQ+ policies in the state.
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, CEO Bob Iger told shareholders he believed DeSantis’ actions to punish Disney were “anti-business” and “anti-Florida”
And on a call with investors following its quarterly earnings report last week, CNN reports Iger suggested that DeSantis and Florida’s legislature was putting at risk the company’s plans to invest $17 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 could suggest a first step in changing those plans.
Disney’s stock rose slightly after its announcement.
NBC Miami reports the governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the announcement.