Disney narrowed the focus of its federal lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis this week to claim that he politically retaliated against the company.
The company amended its lawsuit to drop other claims that it made in the case, including that the state “breached the company’s contractual rights, took property without compensation and violated its due process rights in a yearlong dispute over a special tax district that includes Disney World,” according to Bloomberg News.
The revision shrinks the amended lawsuit nearly in half compared to the original suit.
Disney claims that they wanted to drop the claims because they are being addressed in a lawsuit at the state-level.
A spokesperson for DeSantis said in a statement: “The governor welcomes Disney’s surrender on all of its claims challenging his legislative acts.”
A Disney spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC that the company would “continue to fight vigorously to defend these contracts, because these agreements will determine whether or not Disney can invest billions of dollars and generate thousands of new jobs in Florida.”
Disney suggested in May this year that it had pulled out of building a billion dollar office complex because of “changing business conditions.”
“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,” said Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman. “This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one.”
The company had become enraged after the 44-year-old governor stripped it of its control over a special tax district that was created in the 1960s that allowed the company to enjoy special benefits that no other company in the state had.
“Disney announced the possibility of a Lake Nona campus nearly two years ago. Nothing ever came of the project, and the state was unsure whether it would come to fruition,” DeSantis’ Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern said at the time. “Given the company’s financial straits, falling market cap and declining stock price, it is unsurprising that they would restructure their business operations and cancel unsuccessful ventures.”
Disney had already laid off 4,000 employees in recent months with more jobs expected to be cut due to the company’s financial struggles.
Disney has sued the state of Florida, claiming that they are the victims of “a targeted campaign of government retaliation,” and Disney CEO Bob Iger implied during a recent earnings call that the company may retaliate in response to its feud with the governor by withholding development plans in the state, asking, “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?”
D’Amaro said later on in his statement, however, that the company still has plans to invest $17 billion in Walt Disney World and create 13,000 jobs there over the next decade.
While some Republicans have tried to attack DeSantis over his battle with Disney, the company is not popular with Republican voters, according to recent polling on the topic.
I want to put Disney’s unpopularity with Republicans in perspective:
64% of Republicans view Disney negatively.
Those are Liz Cheney numbers. pic.twitter.com/kOO0ETU1DC
— Giancarlo Sopo (@GiancarloSopo) May 18, 2023