Disney Said to Scuttle $1 Billion Investment in Florida Amid DeSantis Feud


Disney is closing a luxury hotel and scrapping plans to build a nearly $1 billion corporate campus in Florida that would have housed 2,000 employees, the latest fallout from the entertainment giant's increasingly bitter feud with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Disney said it's decided not to move forward with the construction of its Lake Nona Campus, outside of Orlando.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one,” Josh D’Amaro, who runs Disney's theme parks and consumer products, told employees in a memo.

Disney CEO Bob Iger and D’Amaro pulled the plug on the office complex that was scheduled for construction in Orlando, according to the memo, which was reported by several media outlets.

It would have brought more than 2,000 jobs to the region, with $120,000 as the average salary, according to an estimate from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. That's more than twice the average salary in Florida, according to Zip Recruiter.

The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which takes guests on a two-day cruise on an imaginary space ship for $4,800 per couple, will shut down at the end of September, the company said. The property takes guests on a two-day imaginary cruise in a space ship. Prices started at $4,800 per couple. Its 100 rooms accounts for less than 1% of Disney’s capacity in Florida.

Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney World

While the company didn't cite its long-brewing spat with DeSantis as part of its decision, D'Amaro alluded to "changing business conditions" in his memo to employees.

“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 with construction of the campus,” he told staff.

Former CEO Bob Chapek first announced plans in July 2021 to relocate much of the company's workforce and open the campus by 2022 or 2023. The project, however, was delayed until 2026. D'Amaro said employees who have already relocated to Florida will be able to move back near Disney's headquarters in Burbank, Calif.

Disney also announced that the company will no longer relocate its Imagineers, cast members, and employees from California to Florida. People who have already moved may be able to return to the West Coast, according to an email to workers.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom lauded Disney on Friday for bringing jobs back to the state. Newsom, referring to Florida's increasingly draconian laws, insisted that “authoritarian policies have consequences. "

Disney employees "know they can live in a state where they are respected and safe,” Newsom said of California.

Disney has invested billions of dollars in California, and we look forward to their increased investment and growth in our state," the governor added.

Disney sued Gov. DeSantis and his allies last month for what it called “a targeted campaign of government retaliation,” and warned that the state could lose potential future investment.

Earlier this week, the company asked a Florida court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the tourism oversight district that DeSantis appointed to oversee Disney World’s operations.

"Just over a year ago, Disney expressed a political view that Governor DeSantis did not like," Disney argued in a court filing. "In response, the Governor unleashed a campaign of retaliation, weaponizing the power of government to punish Disney for its protected speech."

It’s all part of the ongoing spat that began when Disney took a public stand against what critics call the “don’t say gay” bill. Signed a little over a year ago, the “Parental Rights in Education” law prohibits teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade classes.

Start your day with the biggest stories and exclusive reporting from The Messenger Morning, our weekday newsletter.
By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use.
Sign Up.