(CNN) Disney upped the ante Thursday in its battle against Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and it cost his state 2,000 white-collar jobs.
Disney is abandoning plans to build a billion-dollar office complex 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.
A spokesperson for DeSantis said it was “not surprising” that Disney canceled the project “given the company’s financial difficulties, falling market capitalization and declining share price” .
Disney, along with the wider media industry, is grappling with a tough advertising environment and a massive writers’ strike. Earlier this year it announced it would cut 7,000 jobs as part of a cost-cutting effort.
Separately, the company confirmed Thursday that it will be closing its Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort at Disney World just over a year after it opened.
The popular attraction will “make its final trip” in late September, Disney said, adding it was working with customers to change reservations for later in the year.
The Lake Nona, Florida campus in the greater Orlando area was expected to create 2,000 jobs, many of which were to be relocated from California.
“It is unfortunate that Disney is not moving forward with construction of the Lake Nona Campus,” Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings said in a statement. “However, these are the consequences when there is not an inclusive and collaborative work environment between the State of Florida and the business community. We will continue to work closely with our valued partners at Disney.”
The leader of the state’s Democratic party criticized the governor’s “messy personal vendetta against Disney” for costing Florida 2,000 jobs and millions in additional revenue.
“DeSantis has single-handedly and decisively made Florida an anti-business state,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried said in a statement. “Sadly, today’s news comes as no shock to those of us who lived through his reign of terror, and Floridians are already paying a heavy price for it.”
disney (SAY) and DeSantis have been feuding for more than a year over controversial legislation signed by the governor that restricts teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Critics called the law “don’t say gay”.
The fight escalated in recent months after DeSantis decided to take over the company’s special tax district rules for Disney World and surrounding areas. DeSantis tried to install a hand-picked council to oversee the district. Before the Florida government chose the board in February, Disney had entered into agreements with the outgoing board that limited the power of DeSantis appointees.
The two sides are now embroiled in a legal battle, with Disney arguing in its federal lawsuit that the actions of DeSantis and the state of Florida violated its First Amendment free speech rights.
Last month, Disney CEO Bob Iger told shareholders at his annual meeting that he believed DeSantis’ actions to punish Disney, one of the state’s largest employers, were “anti- businesses” and “anti-Florida”.
And in a call with investors following its quarterly earnings report last week, Iger suggested that DeSantis and the Florida legislature were jeopardizing 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 this investor call.
Following those comments, Disney did not respond to inquiries about whether it was changing those Florida investment plans. Thursday’s announcement was perhaps a first step in altering those plans.
Disney’s stock rose slightly after its announcement.
— CNN’s Steve Contorno and Chris Isidore contributed reporting.