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Disney cancels plans for $1 billion Florida campus

On a conference call last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company's ongoing dispute with Gov. Ron DeSantis raised questions about Disney's continued investment in Florida.
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On a conference call last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company's ongoing dispute with Gov. Ron DeSantis raised questions about Disney's continued investment in Florida.

Updated May 18, 2023 at 6:49 PM ET

The Walt Disney Co. is cancelling plans to build a nearly $1 billion office complex in Florida and move more than 2,000 jobs to the state.

Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro told employees in an email Thursday that the company had decided not to move forward with the massive office complex in Orlando because of "new leadership and changing business conditions."

The announcement comes a week after Disney CEO Bob Iger said an ongoing dispute with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raised questions about the company's continued investment there. In a conference call with analysts, Iger said actions by DeSantis and Republican lawmakers amounted to a "campaign of government retaliation" against Disney.

Last year, DeSantis signed a bill stripping the company of self-governing authority over its 40-square-mile property near Orlando after former Disney CEO Bob Chapek pledged to help overturn a state law banning discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

On last week's conference call, Iger asked rhetorically, "Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?"

The New York Times reports that people briefed on the matter said the company's dispute with DeSantis "figured prominently" in the decision to cancel the project.

While DeSantis hasn't commented publicly on Disney's announcement, his press secretary said this in a statement: "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."

The decision to relocate more than 2,000 Disney jobs from California to Florida wasn't popular with affected employees, some of whom reportedly quit. In his note to staff, D'Amaro said the company would talk individually with employees who have already moved to Florida and about "the possibility of moving you back."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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