Disney Sticks It To DeSantis & Scraps Plan To Move Staffers To Florida From California; “Considerable Changes” In Situation, Parks Boss Josh D’Amaro Says
Just over a week ago, Bob Iger rhetorically asked the adversarial Gov. Ron DeSantis if Florida really wanted Disney’s considerable business and tax revenue, or not. Now, without mentioning the would-be presidential contender nor his attacks on the company, the Mouse House has pulled some of that business and taxes revenues from the Sunshine State.
In a note that just went out from Parks and Resorts boss Josh D’Amaro to Disney Parks, Experiences & Products employees just now, Disney is abandoning its plan to move around 2,000 staffers and their families to central Florida from California.
More from Deadline
Ron DeSantis Spokesman Claims Disney Ditched Florida Relocation Plan Due To Cash Flow Problems & Struggling Stock
'Haunted Mansion' Update Director Justin Simien Avoided The Eddie Murphy Version: "I Didn't Want To Repeat Any Of It"
Dispatches From The WGA Picket Lines, Day 16: Scribes Served Up Tunes, Tacos & Mandalorians In LA, CEO Pay Decried Outside WBD NYC Upfront
Announced a few years back to not inconsiderable backlash among some Disney staffers, the planned move was already previously delayed last summer to 2026, as tensions increased between the “woke” bashing DeSantis and the then Bob Chapek-run Disney over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and other swipes at the state’s largest private employer.
RELATED: Disney World Closing Pricey ‘Star Wars’-Themed Galactic Starcruiser Experience
Sure to be a black-eye to DeSantis, the move will not only see Disney toss aside the big bucks building of a new Disney “campus” in Lake Nona, Florida, but offer staffers who have already relocated to the state the opportunity to move back to the West Coast. Even with reiterated promises to invest $17 billion in and around Disney World and hire over 10,000 new parks employees in the state over the next decade, today’s decision is a long long way from D’Amaro’s praise of “Florida’s business-friendly climate” and generous tax credits two years ago when the relocation and new campus plan was unveiled.
“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,” D’Amaro wrote Thursday with a slight nod to the Republican in the room, so to speak. “This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one. As a result, we will no longer be asking our employees to relocate. For those who have already moved, we will talk to you individually about your situation, including the possibility of moving you back.” (See the full note below.)
Rounding out the math in the loss of construction jobs, vendor spending, and more on the now scrapped f$1 billion facility near Orlando International Airport alone will certainly sting DeSantis. Add to that, the loss of thousands of staffers, their housing and consumer spending in Florida alone, and today’s announcement will cost the state literally tens of billions of dollars — which is really not a good look for a pro-business, pro-growth politician, especially one with higher ambitions.
The fact that Disney is willing to walk away from the over $550 million in tax credits the company was up to snag from Florida over the new few years for the new campus should tell you this is a serious power play to show the Sunshine State business community what is really at stake.
The Disney decision comes as the Donald Trump-mocked DeSantis is poised to officially kick off an already trouble White House bid in the next few days.
With all that, today’s decision is simply the latest twist (of the knife?) in the standoff between the company and Gov. DeSantis. Elsewhere the two are currently fighting in the courts — which has the potential to become an issue in the 2024 presidential election.
In this matter of bringing Disney home to California, we have reached out to Gov. DeSantis’ office and for comment. We will update if and when we hear from them.
However, Golden State Gov. Gavin Newsom wasted no time with not one, but two responses to the news — one nice, and one pugilistic.
Officially, a spokesperson for office of the ambitious Democrat, who has taken more than a few swings at GOP leaders like DeSantis in recent months, says: “The governor has invited Disney to bring these jobs home from a state that is openly hostile to thousands of Disney workers. This move today shows how Florida’s cruelty and hostility towards people is bad for business, and the governor welcomes Disney’s increasing investment in California.”
But Newsom himself took to social media to put it much more bluntly.
“Turns out, bigoted polices have consequences,” the Governor tweeted. “That’s 2,000+ jobs that will be welcomed back with open arms to the Golden State. Thank you for doing the right thing Disney.”
As a backdrop to all this, Iger and Disney has claimed in the past that DeSantis retaliated against the company for its eventual opposition last year to a parental rights bill, a.k.a. “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In reaction, DeSantis championed an effort to strip Disney of its control over a special district that oversees its theme park property, and then to install his appointees on the district’s board. DeSantis later signed legislation to void development agreements that gave Disney autonomy over its property and surrounding land for the next 30 years.
With a suit from Disney and a countersuit from the Governor’s hand-picked replacement board, that matter could end up going all the way to the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, read Josh D’Amaro’s note here:
I wanted to let you know that we’ve just begun communication regarding our updated plans for the Lake Nona campus.
As many of you know, the company had decided to build a new Disney campus in Lake Nona and many Cast Members, Imagineers, and Employees were asked to commit to making a move to Florida. While some were excited about the new campus, I know that this decision and the circumstances surrounding it have been difficult for others.
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. This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one. As a result, we will no longer be asking our employees to relocate. For those who have already moved, we will talk to you individually about your situation, including the possibility of moving you back.
It is clear to me that the power of this brand comes from our incredible people, and we are committed to handling this change with care and compassion. I remain optimistic about the direction of our Walt Disney World business. We have plans to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs over the next ten years. I hope we’re able to do so.
We are committed to our teams who call Central Florida home and to all of our Cast Members around the world, and I want to thank you for your continued dedication to Disney Parks, Experiences and Products and for delivering world-class entertainment for our Guests.
Best of Deadline
Deadline Studio at Cannes Film Festival 2023 - Day 2 - Tye Sheridan, Jean-Stephane Sauvaire, James Marsh, Steve McQueen & More
Cannes Film Festival Photos Day 3: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, ‘Le Regne Animal’ & More
Hollywood & Media Deaths In 2023: Photo Gallery & Obituaries
Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.