John Skipper resigns from ESPN, citing substance abuse problem

In a shock to the sports and TV world, longtime ESPN chief John Skipper is resigning as a result of what he described as a long-term problem with substance abuse.

George Bodenheimer, Skipper’s predecessor as ESPN boss, will serve as acting chairman while Disney searches for a replacement.

“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,” Skipper said in a statement.

ESPN's John Skipper
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ESPN's John Skipper
John Skipper, President of ESPN, INC, and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks addresses the media in Digital Center 2, a new 194,000 sq. ft building on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut May 22, 2014 will be the new home of SportsCenter beginning June 2014. The facility includes 5 broadcast studios, 6 production control rooms, 4 audio control rooms and 16 edit suites. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY MEDIA)
Tom Staggs (L), Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and John Skipper, president of ESPN Inc. and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, arrive at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
ESPN President John Skipper arrives for the annual Allen and Co. conference at Sun Valley, Idaho July 9, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
John Skipper, the executive vice president of content for ESPN, speaks at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York, November 28, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS MEDIA)
General Sport - The Global Sports Summit 2010 - Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London - 29/10/10 ESPN Content Executive Vice President John Skipper during the Global Sports Summit Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Peter Cziborra

Skipper has been with ESPN since 1997 and took the reins as president from Bodenheimer in on Jan. 1, 2012.

“I join John Skipper’s many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time,” said Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger 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.” 

Here is Skipper’s full statement, as reported by

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.

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.

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