Despite Dispute with DeSantis, Disney Intends to Continue to Invest in Florida

During the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media & Communications Conference on Monday, May 22, 2023, Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products shared about if the dispute that Disney has ongoing with DeSantis would impact future spending. This comes just a week after it was announced that a $1 billion campus in Lake Nona would no longer be built.

D’Amaro indicated that while the Lake Nona campus would not be happening, Disney still has many other plans for Florida. He also confirmed that Disney still intends to spend $17 billion in the state. D’Amaro was asked by moderator and JP Morgan media analyst Phil Cusick if the dispute had impacted operations in any way. D’Amaro responded, “It has not. As you’ve seen in our results, the progress we’ve made coming out of Covid has been exceptionally strong.” This was a reference to the recent quarterly results shared by Disney which showed the segment to be a leader for the company.

Cusick also asked D’Amaro about the decision to cancel the Lake Nona campus project. D’Amaro replied with an answer very similar to what was given last week when the news came out. “A lot has changed,” he said in regards to the project that was announced in 2022. “We have new leadership in place,” in reference to the return of Disney CEO Bob Iger after former Disney CEO Bob Chapek was fired. “And No. 2, business conditions have changed pretty significantly, so taking that all into account, we said at this point in time we’re going to reverse that decision.” He finished by saying that the cancellation of Lake Nona also ensured that “we’re taking care of employees in the right way.”

During the conference, D’Amaro was also asked about the closure of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. This was announced last week and will see the Halcyon go on its final “cruise” in September. He called the whole thing a “pretty stunning asset” and continued on that the Imagineers and cast members that brought it to life “raised the bar” for parks experiences. However, there is more to it than just the experience. “It didn’t perform exactly like we had hoped it would perform,” he shared. “So, despite the fact that this was a never-before-seen attraction, we felt it was time to sunset it.”

Despite the challenges that Disney is currently facing in Florida with Governor Ron DeSantis and the decision to no longer move around 2,000 employees to the Lake Nona campus, D’Amaro shared that they still have big plans for Florida. We’re thinking pretty aggressively about where we can take things in Florida,” he said. “I’m excited about what’s in store.” D’Amaro shared that it is expected through the next two quarters that acceleration in depreciation related to the hotel will be $100 million to $150 million.

The comments made by D’Amaro during this conference appear to indicate that when it comes to the dispute between Disney and DeSantis, it will be Disney CEO Bob Iger taking the lead as Disney makes every effort to not get embroiled in a war of words with the governor. The Governor has regularly made comments about the dispute with Disney with Disney CEO Bob Iger only commenting during shareholder meetings when asked. Disney has continued to move forward with its plans and operations within the scope of the law, often quite effectively, and focus on making magic and helping families create lifetime memories when they visit Disney’s Florida theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort.


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