Disney finally pulled the plug in Florida

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Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) is scrapping a near-$1B office campus it planned to build in Florida, as well as related plans to relocate some 2,000 of its California workers to the offices, citing “changing business conditions.” Reading between those lines, though, it’s part of the ongoing feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over what Disney has called “targeted retaliation” against the company through crackdowns on its special taxing district.

Go deeper: The planned Lake Nona Town Center was set to bring more than 2,000 jobs to the Orlando region. Many of those employees would’ve come from a Southern California department known as Imagineering, which works with Disney’s moviemakers to develop theme park attractions. Most of them complained harshly about the planned move, set up in 2021 amid what Disney Parks chief Josh D’Amaro called Florida’s “business-friendly climate”. Meanwhile, Bob Iger, who recently returned as CEO, was much less enthusiastic about the Lake Nona development than his predecessor Bob Chapek. 

Now D’Amaro says business conditions are changing, and “I hope we’re able to” continue plans for $17B in construction at Orlando’s Disney World. But he’s now looking at moving some 200 employees that already relocated back to California.

SA commentary: Amid all the political drama, SA contributor Brett Ashcroft Green believes the market wants to see Disney dominate the streaming space. “Don’t forget, Disney + didn’t even launch until 2019 and 2018 was very profitable without it. Buy the real estate assets and worry about the DMED later,” he said. Howard Jay Klein, Investing Group Leader of The House Edge, believes Disney’s Parks must remain a key element in its future under any foreseeable or black swan economic conditions. “It may be less price elastic in this insane inflated economy – but that’s no match for parental delight,” he said.