John Skipper is filling in the gaps.
The former president of ESPN, who unexpectedly resigned from his position in December, revealed in a candid interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he left the network due to an extortion plot involving someone from whom Skipper bought cocaine.
The 62-year-old told THR’s James Andrew Miller that despite saying he resigned so he could seek treatment for substance addiction, he claimed that he infrequently used the drug and it never interfered with his job. When pressed for why he left if that was the case, Skipper admitted that an attempt to buy cocaine from a new dealer went bad.
“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 explained. “I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with , he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.”
Skipper had worked at Disney, ESPN’s parent company, for 27 years. After becoming president of ESPN in January 2012, he led the network’s effort to acquire rights to broadcast live sporting events.
His departure came as he was negotiating a contract extension that would have kept him at the network through 2021, Sports Illustrated reported shortly after his resignation.
Skipper admitted that he was at fault in the situation, saying, “it was inappropriate for the president of ESPN and an officer of The Walt Disney Co. to be associated in any way with any of this. I do want to make it clear, however, that anything I did in this regard, and anything else resulting from this, was a personal problem. My drug use never had any professional repercussions, but I still have profound regret. I accept that the consequences of my actions are my responsibility and have been appropriate. I also have to accept that I used very poor judgment.”
Skipper said he did go through treatment and therapy after his departure.
“I had a substance abuse problem,” he said, backing his own initial reason for resigning. “I grew up wanting to be countercultural. I worked at Rolling Stone for the first 10 years of my professional life. I had a point of view that recreational drugs were recreational, that they weren’t dangerous. That they could be used without repercussions.”
Given the surge of the #MeToo movement in recent months, some assumed that Skipper’s resignation was related. However, he vehemently denied the claim.
“Those rumors and speculations are categorically and definitively untrue,” he stated. “There were no such incidents at work during my entire tenure, including no allegations. I did not traffic in that kind of activity.”
Once and for all: Clarity & Honesty. RT: John Skipper Details His ESPN Exit and a Cocaine Extortion Plot https://t.co/1jZ54kjWHv via @thr
— jamesmiller (@JimMiller) March 15, 2018
In addition to being a fascinating confessional, this Q&A is a master class in the art of interviewing. Skipper clearly went into it planning to be candid, but not this candid. https://t.co/0l5JEuvPaN via @thr
— John J. Edwards III (@johnjedwards3) March 15, 2018
It’s not only about access. @JimMiller puts on a clinic in this illuminating interview w/ John Skipper, getting to the heart of the matter with incisive questions and tenacious, yet empathic, follow-up Qs. This should put the counternarrative to rest… https://t.co/XHppgEOyaQ
— Anthony Crupi (@crupicrupicrupi) March 15, 2018
This is a very candid and informative interview. @JimMiller continues to show why he’s the best in the business. He treats Skipper with respect but never backs down. What an incredible read. https://t.co/CpcgXRHv5S
— Frank Pallotta (@frankpallotta) March 15, 2018
Miller was praised by fellow journalists via social media for his piece.
“In addition to being a fascinating confessional, this Q&A is a master class in the art of interviewing,” tweeted Bloomberg editor John J. Edwards III. “Skipper clearly went into it planning to be candid, but not this candid.”
Ad Age writer Anthony Crupi added, “It’s not only about access. @JimMiller puts on a clinic in this illuminating interview w/ John Skipper, getting to the heart of the matter with incisive questions and tenacious, yet empathic, follow-up Qs. This should put the counternarrative to rest…”