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ESPN is facing another crazy and unpredictable shift taking place behind the scenes, and this is perhaps the biggest shock yet. It doesn't involve one of the network's many on-air personalities, but rather the person that all of those people called boss, as ESPN President and Disney Media Networks co-chief John Skipper has suddenly resigned from the positions, citing a substance abuse problem as his reason for vacating the high-profile gigs.
John Skipper, who has been with ESPN since 1997, dropped his surprising announcement in an amiable and frank statement that revealed what has apparently been a personal issue he's dealt with for a while now. Per ESPN, you can read his statement below.
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.
It was unclear what substances John Skipper is having problems with, but here's hoping he gets whatever help is needed in order to conquer those urges. It's also not clear how much of an issue Skipper's addictions have been as far as his ESPN and/or Disney duties were concerned, but the mutual decision to have Skipper resign, as opposed to him taking an extended vacation for rehab, possibly indicates some troubles had arisen. Alternately, perhaps some restructuring due to the big Fox deal made Skipper's resignation the best route to take.
While John Skipper has faced some flak for the myriad issues that ESPN has faced in recent years, his resignation is perhaps most surprisingly because it was only in November that he reportedly agreed to a 4-year contract extension with Disney, which would have kept him atop ESPN until at least 2021. That deal hadn't officially gone through yet, as his current contract wasn't set to expire until 2018.
Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger put out a statement of his own, in which it was announced that former ESPN president and executive chairman George Bodenheimer will be taking over as the company's acting chairman for the next 90 days while a replacement is found for the departing John Skipper. Bodenheimer ran ESPN from 1998 until the end of 2011, at which point Skipper took over as company president, and he served as executive chairman at ESPN until May 2014. So if anyone is qualified to help Iger find the next person to steer the good ship ESPN, Bodenheimer is a solid choice, and they'll hopefully find someone who uses the company's billions to embrace new media like streaming and e-sports.
ESPN has faced a host of shake-ups with employees both on the air and behind the scenes. 2017 was a particularly noteworthy year in that respect, with many losing jobs over budget issues and restructuring moves. Outside of that, the network has either accepted resignations from or straight-up fired other longtime employees. As well, the network has suspended some analysts for sexual harassment allegations. Here's hoping the company can spin things back around with a new president in the new year.
If sports-viewing isn't your thing, head to our 2018 midseason premiere schedule to see what other shows are populating the small screen in the near future.