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Tipsheet

DeSantis’s Office Sets the Record Straight on Disney’s Development Decision in Florida

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office set the record straight about Disney’s decision to nix a plan to construct a massive office complex, noting that “nothing ever came of it” despite announcing the project years ago. 

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In an email to employees on Thursday, Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, pointed to the “considerable changes” that have taken place since the project’s announcement in 2021, such a “new leadership and changing business conditions.”

“[W]e have decided not to move forward with construction of the campus,” D’Amaro said. “This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one.” 

The project, which was estimated to cost $1.3 billion, would have relocated 2,000 jobs from Southern California to Orlando.

In reporting on the project’s cancellation, The New York Times began by emphasizing Disney’s sour relationship with DeSantis and cited two unnamed sources who claimed the feud “figured prominently into Disney’s decision to cancel the project.”

DeSantis's deputy press secretary Jeremy Redern noted, however, that nothing ever moved forward on the project after it was announced.

“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,” said Redfern. “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.”

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Further in the Times' report, the paper acknowledges other motivating factors for the decision apart from its conflict with DeSantis. 

The Lake Nona campus, about 20 miles from Disney World near the Orlando International Airport, had been championed by Bob Chapek, who served as Disney’s chief executive from 2020 until he was fired last year. Mr. Iger, who came out of retirement to retake Disney’s reins, was much less enthusiastic about the project — even before the company became mired in its battle with Mr. DeSantis. As soon as he returned to Disney, Mr. Iger began telling lieutenants, for instance, that it made little sense to move Imagineering so far away from Disney’s movie studios. As he is fond of saying, “Creative teams need to be together.”

Mr. Iger has been systematically reversing Mr. Chapek’s decisions. In February, for instance, he announced that Disney would restructure its inner workings, ending a framework put in place by Mr. Chapek. In March, as part of wide-ranging layoffs, Mr. Iger shut down a 50-person metaverse project that Mr. Chapek had started.

Disney is also in the midst of cutting $5.5 billion in costs as it seeks to improve profitability, pay down debt and restore its dividend. (NYT)

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