In a shocking announcement Monday morning, ESPN president John Skipper said he is resigning from the company due to a substance addiction problem.
“I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem,” Skipper said in a statement. “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 (Disney chairman) Bob (Iger) 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.”
Former ESPN president George Bodenheimer will serve as ESPN’s acting chairman over the next 90 days as the company searches for Skipper’s replacement, according to the press release announcing the news.
“I have great respect for John’s leadership, and I applaud the courage he’s demonstrating by addressing his challenge head on,” said Bodenheimer, who previously served as president of ESPN from 1998 through 2011. “The most important thing right now for John and his family is that he conquers his addiction, and the entire ESPN family is behind him.”
Bodenheimer added that he has remained in contact with Skipper since leaving the company in 2014 and, “I believe in the direction he’s taking ESPN.”
Skipper joined ESPN in 1997 and took over as the company’s president in 2012. He has overseen a tumultuous period in the network’s history, which has included both the expansion of exclusive rights agreements with several leagues and multiple waves of layoffs, including the elimination of roughly 150 positions last month.
Skipper, who will turn 62 on Tuesday, had recently signed a contract extension to remain with the company through 2021, according to multiple reports.
“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 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.”
Several ESPN employees took to Twitter after the news was announced to praise Skipper, including columnist and ESPN Radio host Sarah Spainand Sportscenter anchor Jemele Hill.
“John Skipper is one of the finest people I’ve ever worked for. He’s been incredibly supportive throughout my career at ESPN,” Hill wrote on Twitter. “This isn’t company-speak. I seriously cannot express how much respect I have for him.”