ESPN President John Skipper Abruptly Resigns, Citing "Substance Addiction"
Skipper's resignation was sudden and shocking. Former president George Bodenheimer will serve as acting chairman.
ESPN president John Skipper on Monday abruptly and unexpectedly announced his resignation, citing "substance addiction."
"Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN," Skipper said in a statement. "I have had a wonderful career at the Walt Disney Company and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton, George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger."
Continued 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. I have disclosed that decision to the company, and we mutually agreed that it was appropriate that I resign. I will always appreciate the human understanding and warmth that Bob displayed here and always."
The network announced that former ESPN president Bodenheimer will serve as acting chairman for 90 days and will work with Disney CEO Iger to help find Skipper's replacement.
"I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down," said Skipper. "As I deal with this issue and what it means to me and my family, I ask for appropriate privacy and a little understanding."
Skipper, who joined ESPN in 1997, has served as president since 2012. His contract runs through 2018. In mid-November, it was reported by multiple outlets that Skipper's contract had been extended through 2021, but the network would not confirm the reports.
Skipper's departure is a shocking one, though his tenure overseeing the network isn't without blemishes. He has overseen multiple rounds of layoffs, including cuts of 150 employees late last month. Skipper also admitted fault in creating an ESPN show for Barstool Sports personalities and then abruptly canceling it after only one episode. There also was the unceremonious departure of media personality Bill Simmons after his relationship with Skipper faltered.
Separately, The Boston Globe published a feature story last week about the company's "entrenched locker room culture." At ESPN, it was reported, "men have made unwanted sexual propositions to female colleagues, given unsolicited shoulder rubs, and openly rated women on their looks, and, in at least one case, sent shirtless selfies."
Iger, who is now set to stay with Disney through 2021 as part of the company's acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox, praised Skipper in a statement. "I join John Skipper's many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time," he said. "I respect his candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family."