Walt Disney has abandoned plans to relocate thousands of California-based employees to a new campus in central Florida, according to an internal memo, at a time when disputes between the company and the state have spilled into the courts.
The entertainment group will no longer bring 2,000 workers to Lake Nona, on the southern outskirts of Orlando and about 30km east of Walt Disney World, where it was building a 1.8mn square-foot campus set to open in 2026.
“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, head of Disney’s parks, said in an email to employees on Thursday.
Former Disney chief executive Bob Chapek came up with the idea for the $900mn campus, and the relocation would have allowed the company to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks.
D’Amaro said the company still plans to invest $17bn in Florida and “create 13,000 jobs over the next ten years”.
The memo appeared to nod at the dispute between Disney and Florida governor Ron DeSantis, which began last year when Chapek said he opposed Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, a controversial piece of legislation described as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its opponents.
“While some were excited about the new campus, I know that this decision and the circumstances surrounding it have been difficult for others,” said D’Amaro.
The company and the state are in a legal battle over DeSantis’s takeover of the Disney’s special tax district in the area, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Disney, which reinstated former chief executive Bob Iger at the end of 2022 after losses piled up in its streaming business, is partway through its plan to cut 7,000 employees across the company.