Disney pulled the plug on a nearly $900 million development project in Florida that would have brought 2,000 high-paying jobs to the state because of “changing business conditions, the company said Thursday.
The stunning move comes amid Disney’s escalating feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after he dissolved the company’s longtime special district overseeing its Orlando-area theme parks – leading to warring lawsuits.
“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?” Disney boss Robert Iger said on an earnings-related conference call with analysts last week.
Iger’s predecessor, Bob Chapek, had planned to invest $864 million in a new campus in the Lake Nona region, about 20 miles from the Magic Kingdom, and relocate 2,000 workers from its California theme park.
The jobs, some as Disney characters and “Imagineers,” had an average salary of $120,000, according to an estimate from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity cited by the New York Times.
But Chapek was fired last year and Iger returned as CEO, quickly ordering the company to reduce 7,000 jobs and slash $5.5 billion from content and administrative budgets, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“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,” said Josh D’Amaro, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairperson, In an email to employees on Thursday.
The changing business conditions include both job cuts and growing tensions with Florida lawmakers and DeSantis, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Hundreds of Disney workers have already relocated to Florida, and will be given the option of moving back, D’Amaro said in the memo to workers, which the company sent to The Post.
“While some were excited about the new campus, I know that this decision and the circumstances surrounding it have been difficult for others,” D’Amaro wrote.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.
Disney and DeSantis have been locked in an increasingly acrimonious battle that started in March 2022, when Chapek criticized Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would limit the discussion of gender identity and sexuality in elementary schools.
DeSantis, who is expected to announce he will seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president, then moved to strip Disney of its long-standing self-governing power over Walt Disney World,
The governor signed the bill into law and argued that “woke Disney” should not receive special treatment in the state.
Disney called the move political retaliation over what should be protected free speech and sued the state last month to have the moves reversed. The state sued Disney
Disney currently employs more than 75,000 people in the Orlando area.
“I remain optimistic about the direction of our Walt Disney World business,” D’Amaro wrote. “We have plans to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs over the next 10 years. I hope we’re able to do so.”
This story originally appeared on NYPost