BRISTOL - John Skipper resigned from his position as ESPNâ€™s president on Monday, citing substance abuse issues as his reasoning for the decision.
Skipper, who made the announcement through an email to the sports networkâ€™s employees, which was later made public, admitted that he has been struggling with substance addiction for many years, and said itâ€™s time for him to take care of his problem.
â€śI have disclosed that decision to the company, and we mutually agreed that it was appropriate that I resign,â€ť Skipper, who also served as co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, wrote in the email.
â€śI come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down,â€ť Skipper continued. â€śAs I deal with this issue and what it means to me and my family, I ask for appropriate privacy and a little understanding.â€ť
Former ESPN President and Executive Chairman George Bodenheimer will serve as acting chair of the company for the next 90 days, overseeing the transition process, the sports network indicated in a statement. Bodenheimer worked at ESPN from 1981 to 2014.
Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of Walt Disney Co., ESPNâ€™s parent company, issued a statement Monday about Skipperâ€™s decision.
â€śI join John Skipperâ€™s many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time,â€ť Iger said. â€śI respect his candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family.â€ť
Iger said he plans on working with Bodenheimer to find Skipperâ€™s successor.
Skipper joined ESPN in 1997 and had served as executive vice president of content before he was named president of the network on Jan. 1, 2012. Prior to his time with Bristol-based ESPN, Skipper worked for Rolling Stone magazine and Us, which now goes by Us Weekly.
An ESPN spokesperson on Monday declined to comment further on Skipperâ€™s departure, saying the information that was released in a series of statements was all that network officials were willing to discuss.
Skipperâ€™s announcement shocked network employees and drew support and concern from many of them.
Dan Le Batard, who has a daily talk show on ESPN Radio, learned of Skipperâ€™s decision while he was on the air. He fought back tears while expressing his concern for the 61-year-oldâ€™s well being, and praised what he did for the company.
â€śThis person has created everything that exists here at ESPN for us,â€ť Le Batard said. â€śAnd he did it because of how he cares about minorities and their causes. I didnâ€™t want to work for ESPN, I wanted to work for this man, OK.â€ť
Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPNâ€™s flagship program â€śSportsCenter,â€ť also expressed her support of Skipper. She was suspended by Skipper in October for her tweets disparaging President Donald Trump, but she clarified that she was never mad at the sports network executive for her suspension.
â€śJohn Skipper is one of the finest people Iâ€™ve ever worked for,â€ť Hill tweeted. â€śHeâ€™s been incredibly supportive throughout my career at ESPN. This isnâ€™t company-speak. I seriously cannot express how much respect I have for him.â€ť
Bodenheimer also issued a statement Monday.
â€śI have great respect for Johnâ€™s leadership, and I applaud the courage heâ€™s demonstrating by addressing his challenge head on,â€ť Bodenheimer wrote. â€śThe most important thing right now for John and his family is that he conquers his addiction, and the entire ESPN family is behind him.â€ť
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.