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ESPN Prez John Skipper Resigns to Deal with Substance Abuse Issues

The Associated Press

byDylan Gwinn18 Dec 20170

ESPN President John Skipper has resigned his position, to deal with a substance abuse issue.

Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand tweeted news of the resignation, and a statement from Skipper:

Huge news: Skipper resigns from ESPN.

— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) December 18, 2017

Skipper decided to resign, in order to deal with substance abuse issues:

Skipper cites substance abuse issues. Former president Bodenheimer will lead a transition.

— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) December 18, 2017

Skipper: "I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem."

— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) December 18, 2017

Skipper: "I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down. As I deal with this issue and what it means to me and my family, I ask for appropriate privacy and a little understanding."

— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) December 18, 2017

Iger: "With his departure, George Bodenheimer has agreed to serve as Acting Chair of ESPN for the next 90 days to provide interim leadership, help me identify and secure John's successor, and ensure a smooth transition."

— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) December 18, 2017

According to ESPN, “Skipper, 61, joined ESPN in 1997 as senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine. He was named to his current job on Jan. 1, 2012.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger released the following statement concerning Skipper’s resignation:

I join John Skipper’s many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time. I respect his candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family. With his departure, George Bodenheimer has agreed to serve as Acting Chair of ESPN for the next 90 days to provide interim leadership, help me identify and secure John’s successor, and ensure a smooth transition. I am grateful for George’s support and look forward to working with him again in this temporary role.

Bodenheimer, 59, has served as president of ESPN before. After being named president in November of 1998, Bodenheimer continued in that role all the way through 2011. After Skipper took over as president in 2012, Bodenheimer became ESPN’s executive chairman.

The timing of Skipper’s resignation seems a bit of a mystery. Skipper had just signed a multi-year contract extension in November. How does one develop a long-term substance problem in a month? Perhaps ESPN just became aware of Skipper’s issue in the last month, though, that too would seem unlikely. Moreover, it’s likely that ESPN would at least attempt to offer some kind of counseling as opposed to compelling Skipper to resign, if they just found out about Skipper’s issue after signing him to a brand new deal.

Could there be something another, bigger story behind this announcement?

Maybe, it certainly has been open season on executives and high-profile media personalities as of late. I any event, Skipper’s tenure, especially of late, will be marked by decline and regression at ESPN.

In 2015, ESPN laid off roughly 300 employees. The network laid off another 100 employees, including several high-profile, on-air talents in April of 2017. Most recently, several dozen additional employees were laid off after the Thanksgiving holiday.

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