Blackmail From Cocaine Dealer Prompted Former ESPN Chief’s Surprising Resignation

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John Skipper. Photo: Anna Webber/Getty Images for Hearst Corporation

In December, ESPN president John Skipper abruptly resigned, citing his need to get treatment for a longtime “substance addiction.” Now, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Skipper has revealed the impetus behind his surprise departure: He was being extorted by someone he had bought cocaine from in the past. “I was careful,” he says of keeping his drug use secret. “It turned out I wasn’t careful this time.” After discussing the extortion attempt with Disney CEO Robert Iger, Skipper says, he agreed with Iger that he had “placed the company in an untenable position” and decided to resign

Skipper claims that his drug use never interfered, or even intersected, with his work life. “In order to do what I did you have to be a master of compartmentalization,” he says. “Which is why people are going, ‘I don’t understand this.’ Because they have the belief that they can recognize someone who has a problem.” That, he said, misunderstands the way addicts work: “In order to compartmentalize you have to deceive yourself and deceive other people.”

Skipper is also adamant that his departure had nothing to do with the post-Weinstein reckoning about sexual harassment in the workplace. He says his treatment is still ongoing: “I’ve had an opportunity to not use for a long period of time, and I have resources to help me now.”

Blackmail From Coke Dealer Led to ESPN Chief’s Resignation