Disney not the happiest place on Earth for 7,000 laid off employees as company begins cuts

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Walt Disney Co. has begun its planned layoff of 7,000 employees, with the first round of cuts having started Monday. 

The axed positions represent 4.2% of Disney’s 166,000 U.S.-based employees.

Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, first announced the job cuts in a February earnings call. The 7,000 layoffs comprise 30% of $2.5 billion that Disney plans to save in noncontent costs.

The February call was Mr. Iger’s first since returning as CEO, with his original successor in the role, Bob Chapek, being axed himself last November.

In a memo sent Monday, Mr. Iger explained the situation to employees, noting that the cuts are projected to be finished by the end of spring.

“Leaders will be communicating the news directly to the first group of impacted employees over the next four days. A second, larger round of notifications will happen in April with several thousand more staff reductions, and we expect to commence the final round of notifications before the beginning of the summer to reach our 7,000-job target,” Mr. Iger wrote in the memo, published in full by CNBC.

While sports content is not at risk, employees of ESPN, one of the three main Disney divisions, could be on the chopping block, according to one of the network’s main faces, Stephen A. Smith.

“ESPN is under the Disney umbrella. They’re going to have cuts coming. Hell, for all I know, I might be one of them. Now, I doubt that. But it’s possible. No one knows,” Mr. Smith said.

Disney’s streaming portfolio, which includes ESPN+, is projected to stop losing money in 2024.

Other programs and initiatives cut include Disney’s metaverse division, where all 50 employees lost their jobs, according to The Wall Street Journal. Efforts to create an integrated Disney equivalent to Amazon Prime, combining Disney+, retail and theme park apps, were also abandoned.

Theme park cast members might be safe in the interim.

“I don’t see where, when there are labor shortages in front-facing guest roles, it would be a good decision to lay off workers where the money train starts,” Paul Cox, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 631 union that represents part of the employees of Walt Disney World, told Reuters.

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