ESPN Boss Admits Cocaine Extortion Plot Forced His Resignation
The December resignation of ESPN chief John Skipper led to speculation of imminent harassment scandals, but the truth was far more complicated. Skipper now reveals that threats of extortion from his cocaine dealer placed both ESPN and his family in an “untenable position.”
The 27-year Disney veteran alluded to “substance abuse” issues in his December resignation, and now clarifies to The Hollywood Reporter that a cocaine habit escalated into full-blown addiction; one he maintains had no impact on his work. Instead, Skipper claims that a rare lapse in judgment with his dealer left him vulnerable to blackmail, for which he subsequently informed family and Disney CEO Bob Iger:
In December, someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me … 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. I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with Bob, he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.
It is as-yet-unclear what the nature of his extortion threats were. Skipper also insisted that his disclosure and dismissal had nothing to do with the ongoing exposure of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior through the entertainment industry and beyond:
Those rumors and speculations are categorically and definitively untrue. There were no such incidents at work during my entire tenure, including no allegations. I did not traffic in that kind of activity. The company is not engaged in any actions on my behalf and never has been. There were no affairs or inappropriate relationships at work nor indiscretions other than what I have disclosed. My behavior relative to women at ESPN was always respectful. I did not touch anybody inappropriately. I did not tell off-color jokes. I treated everybody with respect. The principle reason I chose to write the statement I wrote — to disclose substance abuse — was to make it clear that this didn’t have anything to do with harassment, settled lawsuits or any internal indiscretions. I never had any relationships, even consensual adult relationships, with anybody at work. And as far as I know, there was never a single claim of one.
Skipper expressed optimism he might return to the media industry in a less hectic capacity, adding “I think it will take the form of helping a few smart people; people I like and respect and who do things that matter.” You can read the full interview at the link above, and stay tuned for more.
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