December 18, 2017 / 4:30 PM / 8 months ago

ESPN President Skipper resigns to deal with substance addiction

(Reuters) - Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) John Skipper resigned on Monday as president of ESPN, the company’s most important network, due to a problem with addiction.

"I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction," Skipper, who was also Disney Media Networks co-chairman, said in a statement. "I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem." (es.pn/2kgmnCb)

George Bodenheimer will be the sports network’s acting chairman for the next 90 days, ESPN said in a statement. He had been its president from 1998 to 2011 and executive chairman until May 2014.

An ESPN spokeswoman declined to comment on who may be considered as Skipper’s successor.

John Skipper, President of ESPN, INC, and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks addresses the media in Digital Center 2, a new 194,000 sq. ft building on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut May 22, 2014 will be the new home of SportsCenter beginning June 2014. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin

Skipper’s departure comes within a few days after Disney struck a deal to buy film, television and international businesses from Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O) for $52.4 billion.

Skipper, who became ESPN president in 2012, has led the network to a series of long-term distribution agreements with major rights holders, including the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

But ESPN has also struggled with subscriber losses and ratings declines. Last month, it said it would lay off about 150 employees.

Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger, who extended his stay at the company through 2021 to oversee integration of Fox’s businesses, lauded Skipper’s candor and backed his decision.

Disney shares were down 0.2 percent at $111.09 on Monday afternoon.

Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Von Ahn

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