Walt Disney Co., locked in an escalating political feud with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has scrapped plans on a roughly $1 billion investment in a new corporate campus in Florida that would have relocated more than 2,000 employees.
“This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences and products division, told employees Thursday in a memo viewed by MarketWatch.
“While some were excited about the new campus, I know that this decision and the circumstances surrounding it have been difficult for others,”D’Amaro wrote. “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.”
Citing “changing business conditions,” D’Amaro said the project is dead, and employees will no longer be asked to relocate from Southern California. Many Disney DIS, +1.07% employees balked at the company’s relocation plans when they were first announced by former Chief Executive Bob Chapek in July 2021. Chapek was fired by the board in November, and supplanted by Robert Iger, who has pushed back hard at DeSantis, a likely presidential candidate in 2024.
D’Amaro said employees who already moved to Florida may be able to relocate back to California. Disney World is Florida’s largest employer, with approximately 75,000 workers.
The reversal in Disney’s plans to develop in the town of Lake Nona, outside of Orlando, is the latest dispute between the media giant and DeSantis, who last year criticized Disney for publicly opposing a sex-education bill that he had championed. The rise in tensions has led to a spate of lawsuits and increasingly bitter war of words between the two sides.
Separately, Walt Disney World late Thursday said it is shuttering all Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyages, by the end of September. The immersive experience debuted in Spring 2022 with a starting price of $4,800 for two guests and just under $6,000 for four guests sharing a cabin.
Disney’s stock rose 1% in trading Thursday.