Disney scraps $1B Florida development as war with DeSantis rages on

Disney reverses course on new Lake Nona, Florida, campus, citing 'changing business conditions'

The tit-for-tat between The Walt Disney Company and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis escalated further on Thursday, when the entertainment giant abandoned its plans for a new Florida campus in Orlando that would have brought some 2,000 jobs to the state.

Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, told employees in a letter provided to FOX Business that the company is no longer moving forward with its office development in Lake Nona, citing "new leadership and changing business conditions."

Rendering of Disney's planned Lake Nona campus

Disney has reversed course on its plans for a new campus built in Lake Nona, a community in Orlando, Florida. (Lake Nona)

According to The New York Times, which first reported the news, the project would have been a nearly $1 billion investment.

Disney first revealed its plans for the Lake Nona campus in July 2021, when D'Amaro informed workers the company would move a few thousand employees from its California headquarters to the new location, praising "Florida's business-friendly climate."

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The decision was made under the leadership of former Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who later became embroiled in a dispute with DeSantis over the state's controversial Parental Rights in Education Law, which critics dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Iger and DeSantis

Disney's Bob Iger, left, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Getty / Getty Images)

Since then, Chapek has been replaced by Bob Iger, who previously ran the company, and the feud between Disney and DeSantis has continued to ramp up with lawsuits flying from both sides after the Republican-led state passed a law taking control of aspects of Disney's land in the state, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

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Some Disney employees have already made the move to Florida, but D'Amaro said in his letter Thursday that the company would discuss those workers' individual situations, "including the possibility of moving you back."

Disney World's castle in Magic Kingdom

The previous board that oversaw aspects of Disney World approved a series of agreements that gave the corporate giant a wide range of control. (Getty Images for Disney Dreamers Academy)

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D'Amaro told employees he remains "optimistic about the direction of our Walt Disney World business," and reiterated the company's plans to invest another $17 billion in the resort. He added, "I hope we're able to do so."

A spokesman for Gov. DeSantis said in a statement to FOX Business that Disney's move was "unsurprising."

"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 DeSantis' press secretary, Jeremy Redfern. 

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He added, "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."