John Skipper resigned as president of ESPN and co-chairman of the Disney Media Networks, citing his struggles with a substance addiction as the cause. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
John Skipper resigned as president of ESPN and co-chairman of the Disney Media Networks, citing his struggles with a substance addiction as the cause. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

ESPN rocked by shock resignation

JOHN Skipper has resigned as president of ESPN citing substance abuse - and the announcement may have stunned Bristol most of all.

The statement on Monday, in which the ESPN president and co-chairman since 2012 stepped down because he has "struggled for many years with a substance addiction," was met with an outpouring of tributes from ESPN personalities, including tears being shed on air.

"The president of ESPN has resigned. And sent out a statement - I'm sorry," Dan Le Batard said on his TV and radio show reading the news to his listeners while trying to fight back tears. "I just want to know that he's OK.

"I'm just learning of this now, and this is the reason I work here. I don't know what's coming, I don't know what this is."

Le Batard said he would not be at ESPN without Skipper.

"I know I look like and sound like a fool right now," he said through tears. "But I want you to understated something. … Just so you understand, this person has created everything that exists here at ESPN for us. He did it because of how he cares about minorities and their causes. I didn't want to work for ESPN - I wanted to work for this man."

That seems to be the norm. Twitter was filled with appreciations from ESPN stars recalling times Skipper has personally helped them, with a particular focus on how Skipper valued diversity at the company.

 

 

"Today I have resigned from my duties as president of ESPN," Skipper, 61, 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. 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."

Bodenheimer, ESPN's president from 1998-2011, will take over that position for the next 90 days as Iger and Disney decide on a full-time replacement.

Skipper has been president and co-chairman of the company since 2012 after joining ESPN in 1997 as senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine. Skipper signed a contract extension last month that would have kept him in that top role until 2021.

"I have disclosed that decision to the company, and we mutually agreed that it was appropriate that I resign," Skipper continued. "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."

 

 

The announcement comes at a tumultuous time for the network, as it just completed its second round of significant lay-offs of 2017. A growing generation of cord cutters and exploding rights fees for the NFL and NBA have left some questioning the future of the network. Just last week Skipper gather ESPN's massive on-air talent to assure them the network was still headed in the right direction and to discuss social media guidelines after "SC6" anchor Jemele Hill angered President Trump by comparing him to a white supremacist.

"I join John Skipper's many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time," Iger said in a statement. "I respect his candour 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."

Now, ESPN will have to find that direction without its leader.

"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 said.

"To my colleagues at ESPN, it has been a privilege. I take great pride in your accomplishments and have complete confidence in your collective ability to continue ESPN's success."



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