John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, resigned from his position Monday morning, citing substance abuse issues. Skipper, who had served as ESPN’s president since 2012, had been at the company since 1997.
“I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction,” Skipper said in a statement. “I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.”
Disney CEO Bob Iger conveyed the network’s support for Skipper in a statement released by the company. “I join John Skipper’s many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time,” Iger said. “I respect his candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family.”
Skipper had recently signed a contract extension to stay in his position through 2021, and no successor is clear at this time. Former ESPN president and executive chairman George Bodenheimer, who held the president role from 1998 through 2011, will serve as acting chair of the company for the next 90 days to assist Iger in filling the Skipper’s post. (Disclosure: Several Ringer employees were previously employed at ESPN.)
Skipper’s resignation follows a tumultuous year at ESPN. The company has scrambled to find its place with new programming and personalities within a changing media landscape. ESPN sparked controversy in October after it suspended Jemele Hill, cohost of the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, for violating its social media policy, and then when the company gave the hosts of Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast a weekly program, Barstool Van Talk, that was canceled after just 10 days amid widespread backlash. Recently, The Boston Globe reported that the company has been a hostile workplace for women.
“I’ve stayed in close contact with John, and I believe in the direction he’s taking ESPN,” Bodenheimer said in a statement. “He’s assembled an outstanding leadership team – many of whom I know very well – and I am extremely confident we will work together effectively to move ESPN forward during this transition.”