Disney cancels plans to relocate employees to Florida amid DeSantis feud
Disney (DIS) is cancelling plans to relocate thousands of California-based employees to the state of Florida amid its ongoing feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
According to an internal memo obtained by Yahoo Finance, Josh D'Amaro, chairman at Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, told employees the company, which had been building a new campus in the Lake Nona region of Orlando, was now scrapping those plans.
"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," D'Amaro wrote.
"This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one," he continued. "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 relocation plans were first announced in July 2021 under then-CEO Bob Chapek with the employee campus set to open in 2022-2023. The project was eventually delayed to 2026.
"It is clear to me that the power of this brand comes from our incredible people, and we are committed to handling this change with care and compassion," D’Amaro said. "I remain optimistic about the direction of our Walt Disney World business. We have plans to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs over the next ten years. I hope we’re able to do so."
Thursday's update comes amid Disney's (DIS) high-profile battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The fight stems from what has largely been seen as a politically-targeted response over Disney's reaction to the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.
In 2022, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek condemned this law at the company's annual shareholder meeting after initially deciding not to speak publicly on the matter.
In response, DeSantis signed a bill into law that allows him to take control of the company's long-standing special tax district, formerly known as Reedy Creek.
The political firestorm is still ongoing. Disney filed a lawsuit against DeSantis last month, alleging a "targeted campaign of government retaliation."
The governor's hand-selected Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board launched a countersuit against Disney shortly after its initial complaint, citing "backroom deals" favorable to the media giant.
"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," a spokesperson from Governor DeSantis' office told Yahoo Finance in response to the project cancellation.
"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 spokesperson added.
The governor's' office previously told YF that Disney's moves showcase a "desperate attempt to maintain their special privileges and ignore the will of Floridians as expressed through their duly elected representatives."
Recently, Disney CEO Bob Iger has defended the company's actions and denounced DeSantis' practices on multiple occasions.
"Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?" he said on Disney’s second-quarter conference call last week.
Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at email@example.com
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