A spokesman for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis downplayed Disney’s announcement that it was canceling a planned project that would have moved thousands of employees from California to the Sunshine State.
Jeremy Redfern, the governor’s press secretary, said in a statement, “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.
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“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.”
Earlier on Thursday, Disney announced that it was canceling the $1 billion Lake Nona project, the latest twist in a battle between the company and DeSantis. The Florida project would have meant relocating a number of California employees, including those in the Imagineering unit, to the state. But Disney claims that DeSantis retaliated against the company after it publicly opposed a parental rights bill, known as the “don’t say gay” law.
“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,” Josh D’Amaro, the head of Disney Parks & Resorts, wrote to employees.
The company stood to benefit from more than $550 million in tax credits.
As the battle between DeSantis and the company escalated last year, Disney delayed the relocation and completion date of the campus to 2026. But DeSantis moved forward on his effort to strip the company of control over a special district that oversees Walt Disney World, replacing its board with his own appointed members. The governor then championed state legislation to void Disney development agreements that gave it autonomy over its resort properties and surrounding land.
Disney filed a lawsuit in federal court last month, claiming that the governor’s actions violated the First Amendment and the contracts clause of the Constitution.
Disney’s announcement was made just as DeSantis is preparing an announcement of a presidential run, expected next week. Former President Donald Trump’s campaign seized on the Disney news and blasted out a statement that DeSantis got “caught in the mouse trap.”
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