John Skipper is coming clean.
The longtime ESPN executive resigned suddenly from his post as president in December, citing a multi-year struggled with “substance addiction.” He offered no more details, though, leading many to speculate about the nature of his addiction, and if that really was the cause for his resignation.
In an interview with James Andrew Miller of The Hollywood Reporter published Thursday, Skipper revealed the real reason for his departure: an addiction to cocaine that culminated in an “extortion” incident.
“In December, someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me,” Skipper told Miller. ” … 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 said he told his family about the incident, then disclosed it to Bob Iger in a meeting with the Disney CEO. (Disney is ESPN’s parent company.) Skipper insisted he resigned on his own rather than Iger asking him to step down, however.
“It was clear to me that I put Bob in an untenable position,” Skipper said.
The 62-year-old North Carolina native, who said his cocaine usage stemmed from “wanting to be countercultural” and “working at Rolling Stone for the first 10 years of my professional life,” also denied his resignation had anything to do with harassment issues involving female colleagues.
“Those rumors and speculations are categorically and definitively untrue,” Skipper said. “There were no such incidents at work during my entire tenure, including no allegations. I did not traffic in that kind of activity.”
Skipper’s full interview with Miller is worth a read, as he also reveals his thoughts about Jimmy Pitaro, who officially took over his old post as ESPN president on March 5.