Former media stalwart John Skipper was forced to resign from his appointment as head of ESPN after he was extorted by a drug supplier he’d patronized on the spur of the moment. The ex-network president revealed the facts of his departure in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
Skipper’s departure from ESPN in December sent shockwaves through the industry, and the abrupt nature of it is now clear: “They threatened me, and I understood immediately that threat put me and my family at risk, and this exposure would put my professional life at risk as well,” Skipper told the magazine.
“I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with [Disney CEO] Bob [Iger], he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.”
Skipper said he had always been cautious about his drug use, but “not this time. It turned out I wasn’t careful this time.”
Skipper said he had never done cocaine at work at ESPN and only had used infrequently over the past 20 years, with it never affecting his work performance. ESPN announced earlier this month that Disney exec Jimmy Pitaro would replace Skipper.
Admitting that his addiction led to his going outside his normal supply chain, which opened him up to the potential risk of blackmail, Skipper said he never considered a course of action that would have allowed him to stay on at ESPN.
“I was overwhelmed by the circumstance. I simply just disclosed the facts, and it became clear in my conversation with Bob what I needed to do. Everything happened very quickly,” Skipper said.
The former media titan spent what he described an “agonizing weekend” after his talk with Iger and before his resignation became official.
“I don’t think I ate for the 48 hours,” ESPN president John Skipper was candid as to why he resigned from his network after 27 years
“I don’t think I ate for the 48 hours,” Skipper said. “I was filled with great regret and tension. My stomach was churning. I wasn’t sleeping. I was despondent. I was panicked. But, no, I never thought about trying to reverse course.”
He went further to deny any inappropriate behavior toward ESPN’s female employees, as some people had suggested at the time of his sudden departure from the network.