Walt Disney Co., embroiled in a high-profile fight with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is closing a luxury hotel at Walt Disney World and dropping plans to relocate 2,000 California employees to a new corporate campus it was building in the state.
The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, a pet project of former Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek, will shut down at the end of September, the company said Thursday. The property takes guests on a two-day imaginary cruise in a space ship. Prices started at $4,800 per couple. Its 100 rooms account for less than 1% of Disney’s capacity in Florida.
Disney didn’t mention the dispute with DeSantis specifically in either the hotel-closing announcement or the note to employees canceling the relocation plan. The Burbank, California-based company said only that conditions had changed since the staff move was announced almost two years ago.
“Given the considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions, we have decided not to move forward with construction of the campus,” Josh D’Amaro, the head of Disney’s parks, said in the note to staff.
But the backdrop is the increasingly acrimonious fight with the Republican governor and presumed 2024 presidential candidate. DeSantis signed legislation that took control of a board that oversees municipal services at Disney World after the company publicly opposed a state law limiting the discussion of gender issues in public schools.
The company has since sued, and CEO Bob Iger has accused officials of being anti-business and anti-free speech. The company has also repeatedly cited its plans for $17 billion in investment in the state.
Disney announced a new $864 million Florida corporate campus in Lake Nona in July 2021, financed in part with a $578 million tax break from the state. Employees who had already made the move will have the option of staying or moving back to California, the company said.
Shares of Disney were up less than 1% to $93.16 at 3:11 p.m. in New York. They were up 6.8% this year through the close Wednesday.