The Walt Disney Company on Thursday scrapped plans to build a nearly $1 billion office complex in Central Florida and relocate 2,000 California cast members, a move that could intensify the clash between the entertainment giant and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Citing “changing business conditions” and the return of CEO Bob Iger, Josh D’Amaro, the chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences, and products division, sent a memo to employees Thursday,
“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,” Disney said in a statement.
“We have plans to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs over the next ten years,” the memo added. “I hope we’re able to do so.”
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Walt Disney Parks and Resorts revised a federal lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis last week after he signed a bill designed to overturn controversial development agreements involving the entertainment giant.
DeSantis signed the bill (SB 1604) after the annual legislative session ended Friday. The bill sets up a process to nullify agreements reached by Disney and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District board shortly before a new board appointed by DeSantis was seated.
Disney filed the federal lawsuit last month, alleging that retribution orchestrated by DeSantis has economically harmed the company and violated its constitutional rights.
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DeSantis and Disney began clashing last year after the company opposed a controversial law that restricts instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools — a law that supporters titled “Parental Rights in Education” but detractors called “don’t say gay.”
Disney’s amended lawsuit Monday added quotes by DeSantis from a news conference Friday and an interview with Newsmax.
“Since our skirmish last year, Disney has not been involved in any of those issues,” DeSantis told Newsmax. “They have not made a peep. That, ultimately, is the most important, that Disney is not allowed to pervert the system to the detriment of Floridians.”
The former Reedy Creek district was created in the 1960s and gave Disney self-governance power.
Lawmakers in February gave DeSantis the power to appoint board members of the renamed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
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The bill signed Friday seeks to undo agreements reached by the former board.
It says special districts would be prohibited from complying with development agreements executed three months or less before new laws take effect that change how district board members are selected.
The bill also would give new boards four months to review any development agreements and decide if they should be re-adopted.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board also has filed a state lawsuit seeking to overturn the development agreements.
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