Disney Parks Chief Josh D’Amaro Says Clash With Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Has Not Hurt Business; Company Still Plans To Spend $17B In State Over Next Decade

If the feud between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was going to be escalated yet again, parks chief Josh D’Amaro didn’t seem like he would be the one to do it.

In an appearance Monday at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media & Communications Conference, the chairman of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products unit affirmed taht the Florida clash has not hurt the division’s business results. He also said a long-term target of spending $17 billion in the state remains intact, despite the recent decision to abandon plans to move 2,000 staffers to Florida and build a new campus 20 miles from Disney World.

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Asked by moderator and JP Morgan media analyst Phil Cutick whether the battle has altered parks 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.” In the company’s most recent quarterly financials, parks proved a highlight, though declines at linear TV networks and in streaming subscribers held the company back.

Asked about the decision to reverse course on building the new facility in Florida, which reportedly will deprive the state of $1 billion in proceeds, D’Amaro said, “a lot has changed” since plans were initially announced in 2022. “We have new leadership in place,” he said, primarily CEO Bob Iger, who returned to the top job in November 2022 after the ouster of Bob Chapek. “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.” The move also ensured that “we’re taking care of employees in the right way,” he added.

Even with that pullback on the new campus, the company still plans to spend $17 billion in Florida over the next decade, D’Amaro said. “We’re thinking pretty aggressively about where we can take things in Florida,” he said. “I’m excited about what’s in store.”

DeSantis battled with Chapek during his efforts to push through so-called “don’t say gay” legislation, which restricts material pertaining to sexual orientation that can be taught in schools. The fight wound up angering thousands of Disney workers and at the same time got the company tagged as “Woke Disney” as DeSantis ramped up his culture-war attacks. Iger then proceeded to outmaneuver DeSantis in the fight over control of the quasi-governmental district, Reedy Creek, which surrounds Disney World. The company also filed a lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, arguing that DeSantis had punished Disney after its comments about the legislation.

D’Amaro was also asked about the recent decision to close Florida’s Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser hotel in September. He called it a “pretty stunning asset” and said the execution of it by Imagineers and staffers running it “raised the bar” for parks experiences. Nevertheless, “it didn’t perform exactly like we had hoped it would perform,” he said. “So, despite the fact that this was a never-before-seen attraction, we felt it was time to sunset it.”

Over the next two quarters, D’Amaro said the division expects an acceleration in depreciation related to the hotel of $100 million to $150 million.

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