John Skipper, president of Walt Disney ‘s ( DIS ) ESPN, stepped down Monday after disclosing with “embarrassment” and “trepidation” that he has a substance abuse problem, as the sports network prepares to launch a streaming app next year.
[ibd-display-video id=3031020 width=50 float=left autostart=true] “Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN,” said Skipper in a statement acquired by ESPN.com . “I have had a wonderful career at the Walt Disney Company and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton, George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger.
“I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.”
George Bodenheimer, a former ESPN president, is stepping in as acting chair of the premium sports network for the next 90 days.
“I join John Skipper’s many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger in a statement. “I respect his candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family.”
Disney shares rose 0.3% at 111.60 in the stock market today . Disney is holding just above a 110.93 buy point cleared on Friday.
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The turnover in ESPN’s leadership comes as ESPN Plus, a stand-alone streaming service that is supposed to complement the main cable network , is slated to launch in the spring. The ad-supported platform has not yet been priced. (A separate Disney-branded streaming app is in the works for 2019.)
Longer term, Disney plans to take the ESPN brand abroad, using the international sports rights in Europe, India and Latin America that it acquired from last week’s deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox ‘s ( FOXA ) entertainment properties, including its movie and TV studios, in a deal worth $66.1 billion.
The company is also making headlines elsewhere for its domestic $220 million opening weekend of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which shattered expectations for a $200 million debut and nabbed the title of second-biggest opening weekend ever in the U.S.
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