Disney cancels planned Florida campus in Lake Nona

Company cited "new leadership and changing business conditions," a memo said.

ByMax Zahn ABCNews logo
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Disney cancels planned Florida campus in Lake Nona
Disney cited "new leadership and changing business conditions," according to a memo.

Disney announced on Thursday that it canceled plans for a new campus near Orlando, Florida.

The development was planned for the Lake Nona region.

"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," Disney said in a statement.

However, the company affirmed its commitment to additional expansion.

"We have plans to invest $17 billion and create 13,000 jobs over the next ten years," the memo said. "I hope we're able to do so."

People visit Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Friday, April 22, 2022.
AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey

The Lake Nona campus, announced in 2021, was set to host employees from Disney's Parks, Experiences and Products division. The company previously delayed the opening of the campus to 2026.

As part of the plans, Disney asked roughly 2,000 Southern California-based employees to relocate to the planned 60-acre campus. The company will no longer be calling for the employees to relocate, the memo on Thursday said.

"For those who have already moved, we will talk to you individually about your situation, including the possibility of moving you back," the memo added.

The announcement comes amid an ongoing dispute between Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney over the company's special district in the state.

Disney sued DeSantis last month, claiming that he had carried out a "relentless campaign to weaponize government power" against the company over a disagreement stemming from the state's Parental Rights in Education law, which critics dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill before it was passed and signed into law.

Last year, Disney publicly opposed the bill, which restricts in-class discussion of gender and sexual orientation.

Afterward, DeSantis sharply criticized the company's 56-year-old special district, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Financial District, which gave Disney autonomy over issues, such as fire protection, policing, waste management, energy generation, road maintenance, bond issuance and development planning.

"Disney announced the possibility of a Lake Nona campus nearly two years ago. Nothing ever came of the project, and the state was unsure whether it would come to fruition," Desantis' Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern said. "Given the company's financial straits, falling market cap and declining stock price, it is unsurprising that they would restructure their business operations and cancel unsuccessful ventures."

DeSantis is expected to formally enter the 2024 presidential race next week, two sources familiar with the plans told ABC News.

California Governor Gavin Newsom praised the decision.

"Authoritarian policies have consequences," said Newsom. "This announcement is a victory for California, and the tens of thousands of Disney employees who know they can live in a state where they are respected and safe. Disney has invested billions of dollars in California, and we look forward to their increased investment and growth in our state."

Disney is the parent company of ABC News and this station.