ESPN's Skipper resigns over 'substance addiction'
John Skipper, the president of US sports broadcaster ESPN, has announced he is resigning from his post because of a substance addiction.
George Bodenheimer, the long-time former president and executive chairman of ESPN, will serve as acting chair of the company for the next 90 days to oversee the transition process.
In a statement, Skipper (pictured) said: “Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN.
“I have had a wonderful career at The Walt Disney Company [the entertainment giant that owns ESPN] and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton [former president of Disney’s Hollywood Pictures], George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger [chairman and chief executive of Disney].
“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.
“I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down.”
Iger added: “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.”
Late last month, Skipper, who has been at ESPN since 1997, was on the verge of sealing a renewal of his contract with the company to remain as president until at least 2021.
His previous contract was due to expire next year.
The 61-year-old joined the broadcaster in 1997 as senior vice-president and general manager of its publication, ESPN the Magazine.
In 2005, he was promoted to the role of executive vice-president of content and seven years later he replaced George Bodenheimer as president of the broadcaster.
Skipper’s resignation comes at a testing time for ESPN, as it recently announced that it would be laying off 150 employees before the end of this year.
In a memo from Skipper last month, it was revealed that employees in studio production, digital content, and technology would be laid off.
It represented the second round of staff cuts this year for the company, after about 100 employees, including on-air personalities, were part of a cutback in April.
The struggling cable sports giant once again got the blame last month as Disney reported net fiscal fourth-quarter income of $1.75 billion, down 1 per cent from a year earlier, with revenue falling 3 per cent and the company failing to meet analysts’ expectations.
Disney’s media networks unit, of which ESPN is the flagship component, reported segment operating income of $1.48 billion, down 12 per cent from a year earlier, while its operating income fell on a year-on-year basis for the sixth successive quarter.
Last week, Disney agreed a mammoth $66.1-billion deal to acquire key parts of 21st Century Fox, the international television and film company headed up by chairman Rupert Murdoch.
The assets bought by Disney include Fox’s movie and television studios, Star India, the burgeoning Indian pay-television broadcaster, and stakes in Sky, the UK-based European subscription broadcaster, and the Hulu streaming service.