John Skipper, the president of ESPN, announced his resignation on Monday, saying he had decided to tend to an ongoing battle with substance abuse.
“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.”
Bob Iger, CEO and chairman of ESPN’s parent company, the Walt Disney Co., voiced support for Skipper’s decision to step down 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.”
George Bodenheimer, former president and executive chairman of ESPN, will serve as acting chairman for 90 days, “overseeing the transition process,” the company said in a statement.
Bodenheimer on Monday praised Skipper’s leadership at ESPN and expressed confidence in the company’s ability to pivot into a new leadership phase.
“I’ve stayed in close contact with John, and I believe in the direction he’s taking ESPN,” he said. “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.”
Skipper signed a contract extension with the company in November that would have kept him there through 2021. He joined the network in 1997 and has served as its president since January 2012.
ESPN has faced a number of setbacks during Skipper’s tenure at the helm, including large layoffs and a sizable drop in its subscriber pool.
Skipper’s decision to step aside was met with both shock at the announcement and glowing praise of his work by ESPN staffers online.
“Shocked and saddened to lose our leader who always made time for me and made sure my voice was heard,” anchor Lisa Kerney tweeted. “A man I truly respect and admire in this industry and as a person. Always enjoyed talking hoops. My best to John and his family as they navigate this difficult time.”
Don Van Natta Jr., a senior writer, wrote on Twitter: “John Skipper is my friend and one of my heroes. I wish him and his family all the best.”