Florida officials have repeatedly pointed to the Lake Nona development as an example of economic vibrancy in Orlando, which suffered mightily during the pandemic. Noting that hotel chains and retailers were moving into the Lake Nona area in anticipation of Disney’s arrival, The Orlando Business Journal in January called the complex “a major economic driver for the region.”
In a statement, Jerry L. Demings, the mayor of Orange County, which includes Orlando, said it was “unfortunate” that Disney canceled its plans. “However, these are the consequences when there isn’t an inclusive and collaborative work environment between the state of Florida and the business community,” Mr. Demings said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California thanked Disney. “That’s 2,000+ jobs that will be welcomed back with open arms to the Golden State,” Mr. Newsom said on Twitter.
Disney has already incurred millions of dollars in expenses related to the project, including relocation costs for about 200 employees who have already moved to Florida from California. Mr. D’Amaro said in his note that the company would discuss options with those workers, “including the possibility of moving you back.” (It was not clear whether any of the people who quit rather than moved would have the chance to return to their jobs.) The Lake Nona project had initially been scheduled to open next year. Last July, Disney pushed back the move-in date to 2026, citing pandemic-related construction delays.
The Lake Nona campus, about 20 miles from Disney World near the Orlando International Airport, had been championed by Bob Chapek, who served as Disney’s chief executive from 2020 until he was fired last year. Mr. Iger, who came out of retirement to retake Disney’s reins, was much less enthusiastic about the project — even before the company became mired in its battle with Mr. DeSantis. As soon as he returned to Disney, Mr. Iger began telling lieutenants, for instance, that it made little sense to move Imagineering so far away from Disney’s movie studios. As he is fond of saying, “Creative teams need to be together.”
Mr. Iger has been systematically reversing Mr. Chapek’s decisions. In February, for instance, he announced that Disney would restructure its inner workings, ending a framework put in place by Mr. Chapek. In March, as part of wide-ranging layoffs, Mr. Iger shut down a 50-person metaverse project that Mr. Chapek had started.