Disney World

Cinderella Castle stands at the Magic Kingdom, at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on  April 3. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via Associated Press

Disney has scuttled a Florida office construction project that would have been worth nearly $1 billion amid an ongoing feud with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Lake Nona Town Center project was expected to bring about 2,000 jobs to Orange County, Fla., enabled by a state tax credit. But Disney is now telling California-based staffers they will no longer have to relocate.

“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,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, wrote to employees in an email that was obtained by The Washington Post.

News of the decision was further confirmed by a state lawmaker who had been briefed on the company’s plans. Disney’s latest move is “unfortunate,” said state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orange County-D, which includes part of the special district for Walt Disney World. “I think they’ve had to make [the decision] due to the business climate and the economic factors.”

A Disney World communications representative did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. A spokesman for DeSantis downplayed Wednesday’s news, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

“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,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said.


Disney in its most recently completed quarter reported revenue of $21.8 billion, up 13% year-over-year. While the company’s streaming services lost subscribers, the division that includes Walt Disney World and other theme parks saw particularly strong growth of 17% for the quarter. Disney’s stock price is down about 10 percent from a year ago.

The decision to nix the development is the latest move in a long-running struggle between the Walt Disney Co. and DeSantis that started when company executives spoke out against Republican-sponsored legislation that prohibited discussion of homosexuality and gender issues in public schools. The disagreement snowballed, with DeSantis threatening a litany of actions against Disney, such as building a prison near the theme park.

The crisis reached its peak when DeSantis worked with the legislature to reconstitute Disney World’s governing district, packing its oversight board with conservative allies. Disney sued DeSantis in federal court, alleging violations of its right to free speech. DeSantis’s handpicked board countersued in state court.

Against that backdrop, Disney chief executive Bob Iger has called DeSantis “anti-business” and touted the company’s sizable economic investment in the state. In a recent call with investors, Iger hinted that corporate investments in Florida might be in jeopardy. “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?” Iger said.

The Lake Nona development was valued at nearly $1 billion, including construction work, and would have brought more than 2,000 jobs with an average annual salary of $120,000, according to estimates from a state agency.

In his email to employees, D’Amaro said Disney is committed to its Central Florida teams and that he remains optimistic about Walt Disney World, adding that the company plans to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs over the next 10 years. “I hope we’re able to do so,” D’Amaro wrote.


The Washington Post’s Taylor Telford and Lori Rozsa contributed to this report.

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