(The Hill) – The Walt Disney Co. is scrapping plans for a billion-dollar office complex in Florida that was set to bring thousands of jobs to the region as the company and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) continue their ongoing feud.
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 new campus 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.
“While some were excited about the new campus, I know that this decision and the circumstances surrounding it have been difficult for others,” he wrote in the letter.
“This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one,” he added. “As a result, we will no longer be asking our employees to relocate. For those who have already moved, we will talk to you individually about your situation, including the possibility of moving you back.”
The New York Times reported that 1,000 employees were asked to relocate to the new campus and that the project would have brought more than 2,000 jobs to the region. The campus was initially supposed to open next year, but Disney had pushed the move-in date for employees until 2026 over construction delays, the Times reported.
D’Amaro wrote that he remains “optimistic” about the future of Disney, noting that the company has plans to invest $17 billion in Florida and create 13,000 jobs over the next decade.
The company’s decision to halt its plans in Florida comes after Disney CEO Bob Iger last week questioned whether Disney should continue to invest in the state. He said in a call to investors that Florida was taking “retaliation” against its free speech, adding that the ongoing feud is not about “special privileges” but about speaking out.
“I’m going to finish what is obviously kind of a long answer by asking one question: Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?” Iger asked.
Disney and DeSantis have been in a yearlong battle after the company publicly opposed the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation for certain grades. DeSantis then stripped Disney of the special status the company had for decades, which gave it self-governing power over the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Disney sued DeSantis last month after a DeSantis-appointed board voided previous agreements the company made, alleging that the governor is harming the company’s business operations.
Jeremy Redfern, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said in a statement to The Hill that it is “unsurprising” Disney canceled its plans for a new campus.
“Disney announced the possibility of a Lake Nona campus nearly two years ago. Nothing ever came of the project, and the state was unsure whether it would come to fruition,” he said.
“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,” he added.
— Updated at 4:19 p.m.