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Disney is scrapping plans for a new Florida campus

by Johnson Jr.
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Originally Published: 18 MAY 23 14:45 ET

Updated: 18 MAY 23 15:25 ET

By Allison Morrow and Natasha Chen, CNN

(CNN) — Disney on Thursday upped the ante in its battle with Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, and it cost his state 2,000 white collar jobs.

Disney is scrapping plans to build a new campus in Florida, citing “changing business conditions,” according to a memo provided by a Disney spokesperson.

The decision comes at a time when the company is openly feuding with DeSantis, who is expected to officially enter the 2024 GOP presidential race next week, CNN reported Thursday. DeSantis didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

It’s also tense time for Disney as the media industry grapples with a difficult advertising environment and a massive writers strike. Earlier this year it announced it would be cutting 7,000 jobs as part of a cost-cutting effort.

The campus in Lake Nona, Florida, in the greater Orlando area, was expected to add 2,000 jobs.

Disney (DIS) and DeSantis have been sparring for over a year about controversial legislation the governor signed that restricts the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Critics have labeled the law “Don’t Say Gay.”

The fight has intensified in recent months after DeSantis moved to take over the company’s special tax district setting rules for Disney World and surrounding areas. DeSantis has tried to install a hand-picked board to oversee the district. Before the Florida government selected the board in February, Disney had reached agreements with the outgoing board that limited the power of DeSantis’ appointees.

The two sides are now locked in a legal battle, with Disney arguing in its federal lawsuit that the actions by DeSantis and the state of Florida were a violation of its First Amendment rights to free speech.

Last month, Disney CEO Bob Iger told shareholders at its annual meeting that he believed DeSantis’ actions to punish Disney were “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”

And on a call with investors following its quarterly earnings report last week, Iger suggested that DeSantis and Florida’s legislature was putting at risk the company’s plans to invest $17 billion in Florida, and create 13,000 jobs, over the next 10 years.

“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?” Iger asked rhetorically during that investor call.

Following those comments, Disney did not respond to inquires as to whether it was changing those Florida investment plans. Thursday’s announcement was perhaps a first step in changing those plans.

Disney’s stock rose slightly after its announcement.

– CNN’s Steve Contorno and Chris Isidore contributed reporting.

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