Disney ‘Pulls Plug’ on Billion Dollar Florida Campus

On May 18 2023, a flurry of posts about Disney “pulling the plug” on a billion-dollar planned investment began appearing across social media, with popular posts on r/politics and r/LeopardsAteMyFace (twice):

On Instagram, political fundraiser Scott Dworkin posted an image and accompanying text about the spreading story:

Fact Check

Claim: Disney canceled a billion dollar investment in the state of Florida amid a drawn-out dispute with Florida’s far right governor.

Description: Disney was about to invest a billion dollars in Florida for a campus that would have brought more than 2,000 jobs, with 0,000 as the average salary, according to an estimate from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. However, this investment was canceled due to an ongoing dispute with Florida’s far-right governor, Ron DeSantis.


Rating Explanation: The claim that Disney canceled a billion-dollar project in Orlando, Florida is confirmed by various reports. The New York Times, CNBC, and CNN all reported that Disney decided to pull the plug on its planned billion-dollar investment. The motive behind this cancellation is cited to be the escalating conflicts with Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, although Disney also cited changing business conditions in its communication to employees.


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A post shared by Scott Dworkin (@scottdworkin)

Alongside a photograph of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and flagship Disney character Mickey Mouse, Dworkin wrote:

BREAKING: Disney cancels $1 billion development in Florida and creation of 2,000 jobs in the state.

Ron DeSantis is to blame for this. Don’t let anyone else say differently.

Ron’s rampant abuse of power is costing Floridians money and jobs.

More proof Ron DeSantis should never ever be president.

Most variations on the story referenced a series of disputes between DeSantis and Disney, stretching back for months. We published separate fact checks related to the conflict on March 28 2023, March 30 2023, and April 28 2023; one relating to Disney’s outmaneuvering of DeSantis in late March 2023:

A paywalled New York Times article referenced in all three Reddit posts was published on the afternoon of May 18 2023. It recapped escalating conflicts between Disney and the Florida state government under DeSantis:

In March [2023], Disney called Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida “anti-business” for his scorched-earth attempt to tighten oversight of the company’s theme park resort near Orlando. [In April 2023], when Disney sued the governor and his allies for what it called “a targeted campaign of government retaliation,” the company made clear that $17 billion in planned investment in Walt Disney World was on the line.

“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said on an earnings-related conference call with analysts [on May 10 2023].

On Thursday [May 18 2023], Mr. Iger and Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, showed that they were not bluffing, pulling the plug on a nearly $1 billion office complex that was scheduled for construction in Orlando. It would have brought more than 2,000 jobs to the region, with $120,000 as the average salary, according to an estimate from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The story also noted that Disney was “in the midst of cutting $5.5 billion in costs” in an effort to “improve profitability, pay down debt and restore its dividend.” That portion of the article included a link to previous reporting (also paywalled) on Disney’s February 2023 earnings call.

Business news outlet CNBC also covered Disney’s cancellation of the project on May 18 2023, citing a “memo to employees”:

Disney has abandoned plans to open up a new employee campus in Lake Nona, Florida, amid rising tensions with the state’s governor.

Citing “changing business conditions” and the return of CEO Bob Iger, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences and products division, penned a memo to employees Thursday [May 18 2023], announcing that the company will not move forward with construction of the campus and will no longer be asking more than 2,000 California-based employees to relocate to Florida.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one,” D’Amaro told employees … D’Amaro said employees who have already moved to Florida may be able to relocate back to California.

CNN followed up by adding that Disney also disclosed the closure of a year-old Star Wars themed resort in Florida:

Disney on [May 18 2023] 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 $1 billion 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 [on May 18 2023] …Separately, the company confirmed [on May 18 2023] that it would shut down its Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort at Disney World just over a year after it opened.

The popular attraction “will take its final voyage” at the end of September [2023], Disney said, adding that it is working with guests to rebook reservations for later in [2023].

The campus in Lake Nona, Florida, in the greater Orlando area, was expected to add 2,000 jobs, many of which were set to be relocated from California.

On May 18 2023, a flurry of social media posts asserted that Disney had “pulled the plug” on a billion-dollar “campus,” due in large part to ongoing hostilities between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (D) and the Walt Disney corporation. The New York Times published an article reporting the news, and added that Disney had previously disclosed plans to “cut costs” by $5.5 billion in February 2023. Disney’s decision to scrap the investment and the jobs attached to it was confirmed in a May 18 2023 memo to employees, 2,000 of whom were no longer expected to relocate to the state of Florida.