ESPN president resigns, admits “substance” problem


In an abrupt move that shocked sports media, ESPN president John Skipper resigned from his executive spot helming one of the most important brands in the industry. As an explanation for this surprise exit, Skipper noted that he’d been battling a substance abuse problem for several years.

ESPN Struggles Moving Forward

As ESPN hosts and other media wished him good luck in his future endeavors, as well as his impending struggle, ESPN scrambled to keep the ship moving in the right direction. The decision caught nearly everyone flat-footed. Just a week prior to announcing his plans, Skipper led an end-of-the-year party for about 500 ESPN team members. The annual meeting is both “thank you” session and “state of the union” for the company. He telegraphed nothing. But, when discussing his reasons for leaving after the announcement, Skipper was candid and focused, saying: “The most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem…”

That was it. No further information, and no other smoke that might indicate the fire of a scandal hidden deeper beneath what was released. In fact, Disney had just renewed Skipper’s contract through 2021, anticipating he would be at the helm as the company expanded into streaming media and, likely, additional original content.

Some speculated that Skipper’s decision may have had something to do with the recent announcement of ESPN’s parent company, Disney, buying 21st Century Fox, but several sources squashed that rumor before it had a chance to get off the ground.

Shock to all fans

So, all sports media and sports fans are left with is shock and wonder. And ESPN is left with a familiar face in the president’s seat, at least temporarily. George Bodenheimer, who was ESPN president immediately prior to Skipper, is acting chair. That should give the company and its various properties at least a measure of stability at this time.

Then again, there was a reason Skipper was not only hired but also renewed as president. ESPN was in the very early stages of a major shift in how it brings its content to consumers. Skipper, based on the recent renewal, was expected to be there through that shift. Now, they have Bodenheimer back.

And, given that, it’s possible ESPN won’t miss a beat. It was Bodenheimer, not Skipper, who hired many of the company’s top execs, and he has been Skipper’s right hand in many recent public appearances. So, ESPN is shocked, but they are in a pretty good situation in these circumstances.

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.

ronn torossian 5wpr ceo

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5WPR, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America’s most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company’s growth, overseeing more than 275 professionals. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world’s most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine’s Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country’s foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations,” which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.

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