John Skipper said he resigned as ESPN president in December because of an attempt to extort him by someone from whom he had bought cocaine.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his abrupt departure, Skipper told The Hollywood Reporter that he had used cocaine recreationally for some time — without, he said, it negatively affecting his work. But he said that after being threatened with exposure, he explained his situation to Disney CEO Robert Iger, and it was decided he should leave the company.
“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,” Skipper told Jim Miller, who has written a book on ESPN’s history and covered the company extensively.
In the interview Skipper said he had not used other recreational drugs such as opioids, that he is no more than a moderate drinker and that he never has committed or been accused of any sexual misconduct.
Skipper did admit that his cocaine use had caused him to cancel a few morning appointments but insisted that he largely was able to do his job without disruption.
“I judge that I did a very good job and that it did not get in the way of my work,” he said. “I worked hard, I worked smart. I worked all the time.”
Skipper’s resignation was announced on Monday, Dec. 18, three days after he and Iger met and five days after Skipper had overseen a staff meeting at ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut, headquarters.
At that point, he gave no indication there was a problem, and he said in The Hollywood Reporter interview he fully intended to continue in the job when he spoke to employees.
ESPN this month named Jimmy Pitaro to replace him as president.