Thursday, 8 June 2023

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Disney plans to spend billions in Florida despite DeSantis fight

Disney plans to spend billions in Florida despite DeSantis fight

Handout | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Despite its battle with Gov. Ron DeSantis, Disney remains committed to the state of Florida.

The media and theme park juggernaut is set to invest $17 billion in central Florida’s Walt Disney World hub over the next decade, which includes the potential creation of 13,000 jobs.

Those figures have been repeated by CEO Bob Iger and parks chief Josh D’Amaro over the past few months, as tensions between Disney and Florida lawmakers have continued to ratchet up. The fight has taken on even more significance now that DeSantis is officially running for president.

In April, the company filed a lawsuit accusing DeSantis and the new board members of its special district of carrying out a campaign of political retribution against the entertainment giant.

DeSantis targeted Disney’s special district, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, after the company publicly criticized a controversial Florida bill — dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics — that limits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.

“We never wanted, and we certainly never expected, to be in the position of having to defend our business interests in federal court, particularly having such a terrific relationship with the state as we’ve had for more than 50 years,” Iger said during the company’s earnings call earlier this month.

Disney recently scrapped plans to open up a new employee campus in Lake Nona, Florida, citing “changing business conditions.” This means the company also will no longer be asking more than 2,000 California-based employees to relocate to Florida. That location was not part of Disney’s $17 billion investment plan.

D’Amaro, who runs Disney’s parks, experiences and consumer products division, reiterated Iger’s sentiments earlier this week during the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference. He told audience members that the $17 billion investment “gives you a sense of how aggressive we’re being in Walt Disney World.”

“And this includes things like the transformation of Epcot,” he explained. “It includes things like there’s a new Star Tours attraction coming, we have a new Tiana attraction that’s coming. So, we’re thinking pretty aggressively about where we can take things in Florida.”

Already Epcot opened Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in the France pavilion in late October and also last year unveiled Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, a roller coaster in the Wonders of…

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