Disney CEO Bob Iger today committed to $17 billion in new investment at the Walt Disney World Resort over the next decade.
Iger spoke in response to a question during The Walt Disney Company's annual shareholder meeting online today. Iger, who returned as Disney's CEO late last year, took the opportunity to speak about the current political situation in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis has been trying to take control of the special government district that has governed the Walt Disney World Resort's land for over half a century. [See Here's How Disney Played Florida's Ron DeSantis.]
"We love the state of Florida. And I think that's reflected in not only how much we've invested over the last 50 years, but how much we have given back in the form of jobs and community service, taxes... and all sorts of other responsible business practices. We've also always respected and appreciated what the state has done for us. It's kind of been a two-way street," Iger said.
"But a year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation, and while the company may have not handled the position that it took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech, just like individuals do."
Let's pause from Iger's comments for a moment to note the slight above directed at former Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who pleased pretty much no one with the timing of his criticism of the Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" law last year. [Disney Parks Make Diversity Pledge As Employees Walk Out]
"The governor got very angry about the position Disney took, and it seems like he's decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business - in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me - against any company or individual, but particularly against a company that means so much to the state."
"To put that in perspective, we have over 75,000 employees [and] countless thousands of indirect jobs have been created. About 50 million visitors will go through our gates this year alone, about eight million of them from outside the US. And we are the largest taxpayer in the state."
"We're currently planning now to invest over $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next 10 years, and those investments, we estimate, will create 13,000 new Disney jobs and thousands of other indirect jobs, and they'll also attract more people to the state and generate more taxes. And so our point on this is that any action that thwarts those efforts, simply to retaliate for a position the company took, sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida, and I'll just leave it at that."
Disney has not yet announced any new attractions for Disney World, beyond Moana walk-through at Epcot that is nearing completion. So feel free to speculate on what exactly Disney will be spending its $17 billion on in Florida.
Doing the math and dividing that investment on an annual basis versus the attendance that Iger reported, that works out to $34 per guest in new spending at the resort. Burgers and churros for everyone!
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