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Volume 25 No. 6
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Was Skipper Pushed Out At ESPN As Best Way For Disney To Facilitate Leadership Change?

While ESPN President John Skipper cited "substance addiction" as the reason for abruptly stepping down, both his "actions before the announcement and Disney's incentives to push him out suggest a different narrative," according to James Andrew Miller of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Those "closest to him at the network" did not see the resignation coming and  "once they learned of it, asked incredulously why he didn’t take a leave of absence to seek treatment." Miller: "I simply don’t believe Skipper is a good enough actor to stand in front of hundreds of ESPN employees Dec. 13 and lay out an infectious and enthusiastic blueprint for the future of the company -- and tell them, according to sources who were there, 'We’re all in this together' -- if he knew he’d be leaving in a mere five days." Skipper also recently agreed to a "multiyear renewal." Miller: "Are we supposed to believe that ... it got so suddenly and significantly worse ... to the point where he had to go through such a public bloodletting?" It also simply "doesn’t make sense" that Skipper created a new hierarchy for ESPN if he had "any thought of leaving in the near term." Miller: "What if it’s as simple as he was no longer wanted?" Disney Chair & CEO Bob Iger is "obviously entitled to select whomever he wants as president of ESPN, and if he decided in the wake of the Fox acquisition ... that person should no longer be John Skipper, so be it." If Iger further believed the "best way to initiate a transition of leadership would be for Skipper to publicly acknowledge his addiction issue, thereby inoculating the company from any bad news that could surface in the future, one could see how that made sense even if it carried a price tag commensurate with the remainder of Skipper’s contract" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/2).