John Skipper says he resigned from ESPN after someone he bought coke from tried to extort him.

By Jimmy Traina
March 15, 2018

Former ESPN President John Skipper has opened up about his shocking departure from the company last December.

In an exclusive interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Skipper, who was with the company for 27 years, says it was an attempted extortion plot that led to him stepping down. Here is the exchange with the Hollywood Reporter's James Andrew Miller:

Miller: Then that leaves us with Friday, Dec. 15, evidently being one of the most critical days of your professional life.

Skipper: Yes, it does, but I want to stress that until that Friday conversation occurred, I worked with complete conviction with colleagues I loved and for a company I loved. But I hurt my family, particularly my wife, and I forfeited a great job.

Miller: Since Friday was so significant, can you unpack it for us, please?

Skipper: I understand why you need to ask that question, but I’m not sure how much I want to get into that, Jim.

Miller: Well, John, with all due respect, I’m a bit confused. There seems to be a big piece missing to this story. I’m looking at my notes: First, you’ve shared that you were an infrequent user of cocaine — something that could be true of others in the entertainment and media business. I’m not an expert in this area, but I’m not sure some would even call that an addiction. Second, you’ve stated categorically that your use never got in the way of your work. And third, you’ve admitted that on the days leading up to your decision to resign, you had no thoughts of resigning. None of that seems to explain why you reached the decision you had to resign.

I know this is difficult, John. I hope you understand why I’m pushing a bit here.

Skipper: In December, someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me.

Miller: Someone you had had dealings with in the past?

Skipper: No.

Earlier in the interview, Skipper detailed his cocaine use and said it never got in the way of his work. 

"At ESPN I did not use at work, nor with anyone at work, or with anyone I did business with," Skipper said. "I never allowed it to interfere with my work, other than a missed plane and a few canceled morning appointments. I’ve never been a daily user. My use over the past two decades has, in fact, been quite infrequent. I judge that I did a very good job and that it did not get in the way of my work. I worked hard, I worked smart. I worked all the time."

Skipper resigned on Monday, Dec. 18. The previous Wednesday, Dec. 13, he had addressed the entire ESPN staff in a Town Hall meeting. At the time, he had no idea he was going to eventually step down. He says that decision did not happen until Friday, Dec. 15, when he became aware of the extortion plot.


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