ESPN president John Skipper resigns to deal with substance addiction

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 02: President of ESPN Inc. John Skipper speaks during the George Bodenheimer Book Party at Hearst Tower on June 2, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Hearst Corporation)

ESPN president John Skipper resigned on Monday, citing a substance addiction.

“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.”

He went on to say, “I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down.”

Skipper notified Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, ESPN’s parent company, within the past few days, according to an ESPN source with direct knowledge of the situation.

“I join John Skipper’s many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time,” Iger said in a statement. “I respect his candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family.

The source said the announcement was solely because of addiction, not related to last week’s announcement that Disney would acquire most of 21st Century Fox. That deal will bring 22 regional sports networks previously owned by Fox under ESPN’s control.

Skipper joined ESPN in 1997 and became president of the network in 2012. His tenure has included enormous growth for the network, but it faces the increasing challenge of declining subscribers as people quit cable.

The news comes one month after Skipper’s contract renewal was made public. The contract was extended through 2021, according to a source familiar with the deal.

Asked why Skipper was stepping down now, the source said, “Addiction doesn’t follow neat and orderly lines.”

Skipper also resigned from his role as co-chairman of the Disney Media Network.