John Skipper, Ex-ESPN President, Says He Resigned Over Cocaine Extortion Plot

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NEW YORK — The former president of ESPN who abruptly resigned last year made a startling admission in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, revealing he stepped down because someone he bought cocaine from tried to extort him. John Skipper left the network in December to seek treatment for what he said was a “substance addiction.”

Skipper’s sudden departure on Dec. 18, 2017, shocked the sports and media worlds. The 62-year-old worked for the organization for 27 years, becoming president of ESPN in January 2012.

“I did get some therapy. I did go through treatment,” Skipper told Hollywood Reporter contributor James Andrew Miller. “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.”

“The statement I released was accurate,” he added. “I had a substance abuse problem … I had a point of view that recreational drugs were recreational, that they weren’t dangerous. That they could be used without repercussions.”

Asked if his substance addiction was with cocaine, Skipper responded: “It’d be safe to assume that.”

He clarified, however, that he has never used heroin or opioids. Skipper also said he did not have a problem with alcohol, saying he was a “social drinker” his “whole life.” He said his cocaine use rarely affected his work.

“At ESPN, I did not use at work, nor with anyone at work, or with anyone I did business with,” Skipper told Miller. “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.”

But in December, “someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me,” Skipper continued.

Skipper, who claimed he was “careful” about purchasing the drug, said he had not previously purchased cocaine from the dealer who tried to extort him.

“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 Miller. “I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed with Bob, he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.”

“Look, 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,” Skipper continued. “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 judgement.”

Asked what’s in store for his future, Skipper responded: “Right now, I enjoy the great luxury of time and being able to only do things I want to do, with people I want to do them with … I’d like to get back in and do some things that matter. I’d like to work with some people who are doing exciting things.”

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