Disney scraps plans for new Florida campus amid row with Ron DeSantis

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The Walt Disney Company has announced it is scrapping plans to build a new campus in central Florida following a year-long dispute with Governor Ron DeSantis.

Mr DeSantis has been attacking the company after it opposed a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early years.

Disney filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Mr DeSantis and other officials last month.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Pic: AP
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Pic: AP

The company had planned to build the campus around 20 miles (30km) from the giant Walt Disney World theme park resort and relocate 2,000 employees from Southern California.

But Josh D’Amaro, chairman of the parks, experiences and products division, said in a memo to employees that “new leadership and changing business conditions” prompted the company to abandon those plans.

“I remain optimistic about the direction of our Walt Disney World business,” Mr D’Amaro said.

“We have plans to invest $17bn (£13.8bn) and create 13,000 jobs over the next 10 years. I hope we’re able to do so.”

More on Disney

Mr DeSantis has been criticised for his ongoing row with Disney as he prepares to launch an anticipated presidential bid.

‘DeSantis is not who you want for president’

Democratic representative Anna Eskamani, who represents the Orlando area in the Florida House, released a statement saying: “Governor Ron DeSantis is a job-killing moron who cares more about his own political ambitions and culture wars than Florida and our future.

“According to him, ‘woke makes you go broke’ but this is another example of how it’s actually the complete opposite. DeSantis is not who you want for president – ever.”

Florida senator Joe Gruters said Disney’s decision was a huge loss.

“I hope we can put this conflict behind us and get back to a more normal working relationship with a company that’s been one of our best business and tourism partners that we’ve had over the last 50 years,” Mr Gruters said.

“Two thousand jobs and a billion dollars worth of investments into our state, I would say that’s a serious blow.”

Feud over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

The feud began after Disney publicly opposed the state concerning lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early years critics called “Don’t Say Gay”.

As punishment Mr DeSantis took over Disney World’s self-governing district through legislation and appointed a new board of supervisors.

Before the new board came in, the company signed agreements with the old board stripping the new supervisors of design and construction authority.

In response, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed legislation allowing the DeSantis-appointed board to repeal those agreements and made the theme park resort’s monorail system subject to state inspection, when it had previously been inspected in-house.

Disney’s suit against Mr DeSantis alleges he waged a “targeted campaign of government retaliation”.

It asks a federal judge to void the takeover of the theme park district, as well as the DeSantis oversight board’s actions, on the grounds they were violations of the company’s free-speech rights.

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