John Skipper abruptly resigned as president of ESPN in December, offering a vague explanation that addiction problems were behind his decision. Now, he explains in a lengthy interview with the Hollywood Reporter that he bought cocaine from someone who then 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," says Skipper, who, per USA Today, had been with ESPN since 1997 and became the network's president in 2012. "I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with Bob [Iger, CEO of ESPN's parent company, Disney], he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign."
Skipper, 62, says his cocaine use over the past two decades was "quite infrequent" and "never" interfered with his work "other than a missed plane and a few canceled morning appointments." He had never before purchased cocaine from the person who ended up trying to extort him: "It turned out I wasn’t careful this time," he says. And though he insists his drug use was "a personal problem," he acknowledges, "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." The whole incident, he says, made him realize he needed to get help. "I did get some therapy. I did go through treatment," he says, and now he says he's "ready to plunge back in" to some sort of job: "I think it will take the form of helping a few smart people; people I like and respect and who do things that matter."