Disney canceled plans for a billion-dollar project in Florida following feud with governor Ron DeSantis

CEO Bob Iger escalated the feud last week, publicly asking DeSantis if he wanted Disney to keep investing money into Florida.
CEO Bob Iger escalated the feud last week, publicly asking DeSantis if he wanted Disney to keep investing money into Florida.

Disney announced it was abandoning plans to to build a $1 billion office complex near Disney World in Florida on Thursday (May 18), after months of building tension between the company and the state’s governor Ron DeSantis.

Josh D’Amaro, the chairman of Disney theme parks cited “changing business conditions” in an email sent to employees according to a CNBC report, explaining why the company was scrapping its proposed campus in Lake Nona, Florida.

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The office complex was slated to become the new headquarters of the “Imagineering” team, a department that works on developing theme park attractions out of popular Disney movies. The construction would have been eligible for a Florida tax credit worth as much as $570 million over 20 years.

D’Amaro also announced that the company was cancelling related plans to relocate 2,000 California-based employees to Florida, a decision that comes just a few weeks after Disney announced it was suing DeSantis for embarking on “targeted campaign of government retaliation” for Disney’s protected speech.

Still, D’Amaro said he remained optimistic about Disney’s future plans for Disney World in Florida in the memo, confirming the company still planned to invest $17 billion for construction costs in the state.

Quotable: Bob Iger’s rhetorical question for Disney

“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?”
— Disney CEO Bob Iger in a call with investors earlier this week.

A timeline of tensions between Disney and Florida’s governor

March 28, 2022: DeSantis signs the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibiting discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms from kindergarten through third grade. Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek criticizes the law, and says the company tried to prevent it from passing.

April 28, 2022: The Florida legislature votes to remove Disney’s special tax district by July 1 2023.

February 10, 2023: The Florida legislature votes to put DeSantis in charge of Disney’s special tax district.

February 27, 2023: DeSantis signs legislation removing Disney’s control over its special tax district.

March 30, 2023: Local reporting by the Orlando Sentential reveals that, before Florida took over the special tax district, Disney’s board signed a development agreement that limited state control over the district.

April 3, 2023: DeSantis directs state officials to conduct an investigation into the agreement, apparently signed without the state government’s knowledge.

April 26, 2023: Disney files a lawsuit against DeSantis, accusing the governor of waging a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” over the company.

May 17, 2023: DeSantis signs a series of extensions to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, including expanding the policy for students though the eighth grade, escalating the conflict.

Related stories:

Disney sues Ron DeSantis on First Amendment grounds

The other battle brewing in Florida over Disney and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill

DeSantis is threatening to build a state prison next to Walt Disney World

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