John Skipper, the former ESPN president, revealed Thursday that he had a cocaine addiction and that an attempted extortion plot by somebody he bought cocaine from caused his abrupt resignation in December.
“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,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Skipper said he spoke with Robert A. Iger, the chairman and chief executive of Disney, ESPN’s parent company, and the two agreed he had put the company in an “untenable” position and had to resign. He added in the interview that he had never used heroin or opioids.
ESPN declined to comment on its former president’s interview.
Skipper admitted that his cocaine use had caused “a missed plane and a few canceled morning appointments,” but said that it otherwise never affected his professional work.
“I judge that I did a very good job and that it did not get in the way of my work,” he said. “I worked hard, I worked smart. I worked all the time.”
He did not say how long he had been using cocaine, or whether he reported the extortion plot to law enforcement.
Skipper’s resignation, on Dec. 18, a Monday, took everybody, even high-level ESPN employees, by surprise. On the previous Wednesday, he had presided over an all-hands meeting at ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut, campus, and the next day he was going about business as usual. He told The Hollywood Reporter that his meeting with Iger in which they mutually decided he should resign took place that Friday afternoon.
His rehabilitation has included unspecified “therapy” and “treatment,” and Skipper indicated that he would like to be working again sooner rather than later.
“I don’t think it will take the form of a large corporate job, managing a lot of people and running a big company,” he said. “I think it will take the form of helping a few smart people; people I like and respect and who do things that matter.”