ESPN’s turbulent year is ending on a low note. The sporting world behemoth closes the book on 2017 with its president since 2012 stepping down. Citing substance abuse, John Skipper announced his resignation today in a company-wide email.
In a statement, Skipper says, “Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN. 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.”
Beyond his duties as ESPN’s president, John Skipper also served as the co-chairman of the Disney Media Networks. Skipper began his career at ESPN in 1997 as the general manager of ESPN The Magazine and as a senior vice president for the network. His resignation is immediate. According to ESPN, “George Bodenheimer, ESPN’s president from 1998 to 2011 and its executive chairman until May 2014, will take over as the acting chairman of the company for the next 90 days to help Disney chairman and chief executive officer Bob Iger find Skipper’s replacement.”
Roiled by declining viewers of the network, mass layoffs, and accusations of a marked shift into the promotion of leftist politics across ESPN platforms, John Skipper’s tenure at ESPN has been filled with conflict. Seemingly out of touch with the vast majority of sports fans, over the last few years ESPN has embraced the Black Lives Matter narrative as well as pushing identity politics across the board. Many believe that ESPN has basically posted a “Conservatives Not Welcome” sign across their once lustrous brand.
In his statement John Skipper reveals,
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.
As I deal with this issue and what it means to me and my family, I ask for appropriate privacy and a little understanding.
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.
Disney CEO Bob Iger expressed his support for John Skipper and issued a statement regarding ESPN’s future:
“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.”
As ESPN enters a new era, it will be interesting to see if the company continues down the same progressive path or if they go back to being a sports network first and foremost.