Skipper Named ESPN President; Bodenheimer Gets New Title

Tue Nov 22, 2011 5:09am EST

Disney announced Tuesday that George Bodenheimer has been named the executive chairman of ESPN and that John Skipper will replace him as its president. 

Bodenheimer, currently president of ESPN and ABC Sports and co-chair of Disney Media Networks, will relinquish his day-to-day operating responsibilities Jan. 1. Named ESPN's fifth president in 1998, he has been its longest serving top executive since its 1979 launch and served over a period of dramatic growth.

Bodenheimer, 53, will relinquish day-to-day duties as ESPN's president and co-chair of Disney Media Networks on Jan. 1, 2012, the same day Skipper will take over those duties.

In a release, Disney said the move was part of the company's focus on "ensuring strategic continuity and succession planning."

Bodenheimer will continue to report to Disney President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger, and Skipper will report to Iger and Bodenheimer.

As executive chairman, Bodenheimer will continue to chair ESPN’s Board of Directors and provide strategic direction, as well as guide the transition to Skipper.

Here's the release:

BURBANK, Calif., November 22, 2011 - The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) President and Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Iger announced today that he has named  The moves continue the Company’s focus on ensuring strategic continuity and succession planning.

Bodenheimer, currently President of ESPN and ABC Sports and Co-Chair of Disney Media Networks, will relinquish his day-to-day operating responsibilities January 1.  As Executive Chairman of ESPN, Bodenheimer will continue to chair ESPN’s Board of Directors, provide strategic direction and support a seamless transition to Skipper, who will assume day-to-day operating responsibilities January 1.  Skipper has served as ESPN’s executive vice president, content, since October 2005.

Bodenheimer will continue to report to Iger.  Skipper will have a dual report to Iger and Bodenheimer.

Iger said: “George has said repeatedly that ESPN’s success has been led by its collaborative corporate culture and a deep bench of executive talent.  While that remains true, it obviously and intentionally downplays his leadership and many significant contributions.  We’ve focused on succession at all levels of Disney for some time now, and consistent with that approach, George initiated conversations last spring that led to today’s announcement.

“With George’s continued presence, John’s experience and vision and an executive management team and workforce that are unparalleled in the sports media business, ESPN is extremely well positioned for continued success.”

Bodenheimer’s 13 years as president of ESPN have been marked by expansive growth domestically and internationally across every available metric and media platform.  Today, ESPN is comprised of eight US television networks, five HD services, a 3D TV network, 48 international networks, 13 international editions of SportsCenter, 18 web sites, 750 radio affiliates, the largest mobile sports operation and 7,000 employees worldwide.  ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters has increased to 116 acres, featuring a state-of-the-art digital production center with construction of a second facility underway.

Bodenheimer said: “I’ve been with ESPN 31 years – my entire professional career. Constant change and consistent growth have marked each of those years, and to me those two themes underscore today’s news.  We’ve demonstrated that change managed well is healthy – for companies and for people.  After 13 years as President, I felt it was a good time to step away from the day to day management of ESPN and let others take the lead. I very much appreciate Bob's support over the years, and look forward to my future role with ESPN.

“We are in great shape on many fronts. The people of ESPN have made us the great company we are today.  I am very proud of all that we have accomplished together, and excited about our future.”

As Executive Vice President, Content, Skipper is responsible for the creation, programming and production of ESPN content across all media platforms, including television, radio, the Internet, broadband, wireless, interactive games and home entertainment.  Under his leadership, ESPN has consistently set records for television ratings and digital consumption; negotiated several major rights agreements with the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, FIFA, the Masters Tournament, the British Open, the USTA, Wimbledon and several college conferences; and launched a wide variety of creative programming, including the critically acclaimed ESPN Films sports documentary series.

Skipper joined ESPN in June 1997 as senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine, overseeing one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990s.  Previously, he was senior vice president of The Disney Publishing Group, overseeing all of Disney’s magazine, book and licensed publishing operations in the United States.

Skipper said: “I am humbled and excited to be given the opportunity by Bob and George to lead this terrific company.  George set a high bar and an impeccable example, and I will dedicate all of my energy to follow George's lead in both empowering and supporting my 7,000 ESPN colleagues who do such great work every day.  I look forward to working alongside them in meeting the many challenges that lie ahead.”

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