LOS ANGELES — Walt Disney Co is canceling plans to move 2,000 jobs to Florida in part because of “changing business conditions” in the state, according to an e-mail sent to employees seen by Reuters on Thursday.
The announcement comes amid an expanding legal battle between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the entertainment giant.
Disney Parks Director Josh D’Amaro said “changes in leadership” and “changing business conditions” have prompted Disney to reconsider its plans to relocate employees in 2021, including those in the area. imagine designing amusement park rides, to a new campus in Lake Nona. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Disney is expected to spend up to $864 million on the project.
The initial decision to move employees from California to Florida prompted complaints from many employees who were reluctant to move across the country.
“Given the significant changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new management and changing business conditions, we have decided not to continue building the campus,” said D’Amaro. write. “This is not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one.” A week ago, Disney CEO Bob Iger publicly questioned Florida’s interest in the company’s continued investment. On a call with investors to discuss quarterly results, he noted that the company employs more than 75,000 people in Florida, draws millions of visitors each year to Walt Disney World, and plans to invest invest $17 billion to expand the resort over the next decade.
“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes?” Iger asked.
Disney and DeSantis have been embroiled in an increasingly heated battle that began in March 2022, when Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek criticized legislation in Florida restricting discussion of gender identity and sex in elementary schools.
DeSantis, who is expected to announce soon that he will seek the Republican nomination for US president in 2024, then moves to strip Disney of its longstanding autonomy over Walt World Disney in Orlando. The governor argued that “Disney has woken up” should not receive special treatment in the state.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.
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Disney called the move political retaliation for what should be free speech protection and sued the state last month to reverse the moves.
Iger’s predecessor announced plans in July 2021 to move work from Southern California to a new facility in central Florida, citing its “business-friendly environment.” Although Disney has never disclosed the value of its investment, the Los Angeles Times reports that it will receive nearly $580 million in tax credits over the next 19 years.
“I remain optimistic about the business direction of Walt Disney World,” D’Amaro wrote. We plan to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs over the next ten years. I hope we can do the same.”
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler and Anna Driver)
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