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Disney Shifts Allegiance From Florida To California Amid Feud With Governor DeSantis

The ongoing battle over the 'Don't Say Gay' law prompts Disney to prioritize expansion plans in California.

Florida’s loss could be California’s gain, as Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) has shifted allegiance to the Golden State in the wake of its ongoing feud with the Sunshine State’s Governor Ron DeSantis.

Bob Iger, CEO, Walt Disney Company and Steven Spielberg attend the Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny U.S. Premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on June 14, 2023. Disney pulled it’s plan to move its headquarters to Florida. (Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney) 

Disney is reprioritizing its expansion plans in Florida as it is waging a war with DeSantis over the “Don’t Say Gay” law, a Guardian report said. This law forbids classroom discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade.

DeSantis advised then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek to stay out of the political spectrum over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, where it had sparked a war between DeSantis and Disney.

The Mouse House has filed a lawsuit against the governor over his witch-hunting over its opposition to the law.

Disney’s changed stance was evident when it scrapped a $1 billion project to build an office campus in Orlando to relocate 2,000 of its office employees. The company also shut down a Star Wars hotel that was open at Disney World.

Disney is instead vigorously pursuing its Disneyland Forward project, a multi-year public planning effort to update Disneyland Resort’s existing development approvals that would allow the company to meaningfully invest in Anaheim, California.

Disney reportedly now expects the project to generate $253 million annually, while also creating 2,200 new jobs.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has lapped up the opportunity that has emerged out of the Disney-DeSantis tussle. The governor reportedly attended the “Pride Nite” event at Disneyland.

“In California, we don’t just tolerate our diversity – we celebrate it and all the ways it makes us stronger,” said Newsom in a June 14 statement.

“Our inclusivity and acceptance attract new talent and ideas that drive our economic growth and make California a hotspot for world-leading companies to grow and prosper. We’ll continue to advance California values to build an inclusive economy that embraces opportunity for all.”

Bill George, former chief executive of Medtronic, reportedly said, “DeSantis has done lasting harm to Disney’s investments in Florida, and they’ve already pulled investment and said 2,000 people are not moving, they’ve already canceled that. I’m in touch with a lot of CEOs who are looking at those issues right now.”

Miami mayor Francis Suarez slammed DeSantis over the loss of creating jobs in Florida as Disney scrapped its plans to move their headquarters to Greater Orlando area.

“Look, he took an issue that was a winning issue that we all agreed on, which was parental rights for K through third-graders,” said Suarez about the loss of jobs. “And it looks like now it’s something that spite or maybe potentially a personal vendetta, which has cost the state now potentially 2,000 jobs in a billion-dollar investment.”

Produced in association with Benzinga

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