Disney-DeSantis battle heats up as company braces for layoffs

  • Disney has been feuding with Gov. Ron DeSantis over control of its Florida park
  • The company is now reportedly preparing for another round of layoffs
  • The planned job cuts are part of a plan to save $5.5 billion in costs

FILE – The Walt Disney Co. logo appears on a screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 7, 2017. The third straight Pixar feature film will go straight to Disney+, the Walt Disney Co. announced Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. “Turning Red” will premiere exclusively on Disney+ on March 11, the studio said. Kareem Daniel, chairman of distribution for Disney, cited the pandemic and the slower recovery for family films at the box office. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

(NewsNation) — A new 11th-hour agreement discovered by Florida’s oversight board for Disney World is escalating a political battle with Gov. Ron DeSantis, all while the company reportedly prepares for another round of layoffs this week.

A Walt Disney Co. subsidiary, which provides utility services to the central Florida district that includes the Walt Disney World Resort, negotiated an agreement in February to extend its contract through 2032, Chairman Martin Garcia said at a public meeting.

“Last Friday afternoon, I learned for the first time about one of these new 11th hour agreements entered into between Disney and the district. This one relates to our utility services,” Garcia said. “We’ll have to evaluate the legality of that agreement, that essentially enables Disney to set their utility rates.

The governor’s clash with Disney started when the company came out against his education plan that limits the instruction of gender identity and sexuality in public schools. In response, DeSantis signed a bill that dissolved the private government that oversaw Walt Disney World in the state.

But outgoing Disney-friendly members of the board that oversees the district approved an agreement with the company that gave it developmental authority over its theme park. New board members handpicked by DeSantis said the agreement stripped them of their ability to oversee the park’s development.

In response to the maneuvering, DeSantis earlier this week floated the idea of building a prison on land next to the Orlando theme park.

The new development in the political fight comes as Disney is reportedly preparing to lay off thousands of workers next week in a continuing effort to slash operating costs.

The cuts include 15% of the staff in the entertainment division and spans theme parks, TV, film and corporate teams, Bloomberg reported. Some workers will be notified as early as Monday.

In February, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced plans to cut 7,000 jobs as part of a strategy to reduce annual costs by $5.5 billion. The layoffs amount to 3.6% of the company’s global workforce.

The media company, which is under pressure to turn a profit from its global streaming business, said it would reorganize into three segments: an entertainment unit that encompasses film, television and streaming; a sports-focused ESPN unit; and Disney parks, experiences and products.

The company said the restructuring would streamline operations, making the business more efficient and reducing costs. Disney is the latest media company to announce job cuts in response to slowing subscriber growth and increased competition for streaming viewers. Disney earlier reported its first quarterly decrease in subscriptions for its Disney+ streaming media unit, which lost more than $1 billion.

Staffers at ESPN have been notified of the impending cuts, CNBC reported.

Reuters and The Hill contributed to this story.


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