John Skipper says he resigned from ESPN because of a cocaine extortion plot

FILE - In this July 21, 2016 file photo, ESPN president John Skipper gestures as he talks about the new ACC/ESPN Network during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C. Skipper says he is resigning to take care of a substance abuse problem. The sports network says its former president, George Bodenheimer, will take over as acting head of the company for the next 90 days. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
John Skipper resigned as ESPN President in 2017. –Chuck Burton / AP

Former ESPN president John Skipper has opened up about his unexpected resignation from the network in December.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the 62-year-old explained the reason for his sudden departure was a cocaine extortion plot.

“Someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me,” he told Miller. “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 said when he discussed the situation with Walt Disney Company’s CEO Bob Iger, they both agreed he had “placed the company in an untenable position” and should resign. Skipper said the pair had their conversation on a Friday — three days before his resignation was announced on Monday, Dec. 16. He called the weekend “agonizing.”


Citing an unspecified, years-long substance addiction in his statement of resignation, Skipper said he came to the “public disclosure” with “embarrassment, trepidation, and a feeling of having let others [he cares] about down.” He told Miller, however, his drug usage “never” got in the way of his work.

“At ESPN, I did not use at work, nor with anyone at work, or with anyone I did business with,” he said. “I never allowed it to interfere with my work, other than a missed plane and a few canceled morning appointments. I’ve never been a daily user. My use over the past two decades has, in fact, been quite infrequent.”

In the months since his exit, Skipper said he sought treatment and took “some time for reflection.”

“I thought the best thing to do was to take the time to check myself into a facility, and I was able to understand a bit more about substance use and to think about how it intersected with my life,” he told Miller. “I’ve grown to learn that taking care of yourself is a continuous, lifelong process.”

Skipper also expressed gratitude for his time at ESPN, adding that he hopes to work again one day.


“I’m healthy, and I’m ready to plunge back in,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what form that will take. I don’t think it will take the form of a large corporate job, managing a lot of people and running a big company. I think it will take the form of helping a few smart people; people I like and respect and who do things that matter.”

Read the complete interview with Skipper on the Hollywood Reporter.