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John Skipper Resigns as President of ESPN Citing Substance Abuse Issues

John Skipper has abruptly resigned as president of ESPN according to ESPN, who made the announcement Monday morning. In a statement, Skipper cited substance abuse issues as a reason for leaving.

“Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN,” Skipper announced. “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,” he added. “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.”

Skipper had served as the president of ESPN since January 1, 2012. His replacement, Bodenheimer, is a former president of the 24 hour sports network, having served as ESPN’s president from 1998 to 2011. Bodenheimer will serve as Acting Chair of ESPN for the next three months and will help Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, find a replacement for Skipper.

In a statement, Iger said that Bodenheimer will “provide interim leadership, help me identify and secure John’s successor, and ensure a smooth transition.” He also supported Skipper’s decision to resign.

“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.

Skipper, 61, first joined ESPN in 1997, serving as senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine. He also served as the executive vice president of content before being elevated to president in 2012. Prior to joining ESPN, Skipper, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, worked for Rolling Stone, Us and Spin. His first job at Rolling Stone was a secretary.

News of Skipper’s departure was quick to spread on Twitter.

A leader we respect & admire has made a tough but right call. John Skipper has resigned to take on a substance addiction. Former Prez Bodenheimer to lead transition. https://t.co/9j8m6U4LcK

— Chris LaPlaca (@espn_chris) December 18, 2017

I have nothing but the best wishes for John Skipper. When he came into to the truck or attended a meeting, there was no tension or fear, always respect and friendliness. Those that work in TV know that's incredibly rare.

— Chris Alexopoulos (@chriszop) December 18, 2017

John Skipper's commitment to diversity & inclusion at ESPN has been not only inspiring, but comforting to those of us who want to believe things are headed in the right direction. Deeply saddened to hear of his resignation.

— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) December 18, 2017

Given the near daily dismissal and resignations of men in powerful positions who were found guilty of sexual misconduct, there was initially speculation that something similar could be the cause of Skipper’s dismissal. However, Jim Miller, who wrote the oral history of ESPN, was quick to pour water on that theory and sought to dampen any speculation that Skipper leaving was anything other than a result of substance abuse.

This is an addication story. Nothing else. #Skipper #ESPN

— jamesmiller (@JimMiller) December 18, 2017

Of course not everyone seemed to be upset about the news. Dave Portnoy, the leader of Barstool Sports, who have had numerous ongoing feuds with ESPN seemed somewhat celebratory in a tweet, saying “long live the king.”

Espn president John Skipper resigns effective immediately. Long live the king! pic.twitter.com/6rWNWyUNkF

— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) December 18, 2017