The former network chief goes public in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the real reason behind his abrupt departure from Disney after 27 years, a confession to Bob Iger and his hope to work in sports media again.
Skipper stated he was battling a “substance addiction.” when he departed, stating that was the main reason he was leaving. The substance was cocaine and an extortion plot from a dealer precipitated his departure. That is brutal.
“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. “I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with Bob, he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.”
Here’s a little Q & A from the interview below:
JAM: Were you also concerned that the company might wind up being in a position of having to defend your actions, or any behavior that accompanied or resulted from your drug use?
Skipper: That did occur to me. Look, it was inappropriate for the president of ESPN and an officer of The Walt Disney Co. to be associated in any way with any of this. I do want to make it clear, however, that anything I did in this regard, and anything else resulting from this, was a personal problem. My drug use never had any professional repercussions, but I still have profound regret. I accept that the consequences of my actions are my responsibility and have been appropriate. I also have to accept that I used very poor judgment.
JAM: Poor judgment, meaning that it sounds like on a particular night, you couldn’t rely on the secret world you had created and threw caution out the window by buying from a strange source.
Skipper: That, and of course the usage itself.
JAM: Was this the moment then that made you realize you had a substance abuse problem, because you were willing to act so dangerously in order to obtain some coke that night?
Skipper: Yes, I believe that’s true. I knew then I had a problem I needed to address.
JAM: I guess this also explains why you had never before thought about resigning.
Skipper: I acted very foolishly. It made me want to seek help and get this out of my life.
JAM: Forgive me, John, but I can’t help thinking now about when someone was attempting to extort David Letterman with information that he had had an affair with a staff member. Dave took the step of going on the air and disclosing that it was indeed true, adding that in doing so he was hoping to protect his job. When you found out you were being threatened, was there a part of you that wanted to go to Bob and say, “Look, I’m being threatened concerning a purchase of cocaine. I’m going to tell you right now, I did buy cocaine. I do not use it at work, I’ve never been affected by it at work, and this has forced me to admit I have a problem. I love my job, this company, and its employees, and I respectfully ask for a leave to seek treatment and I will return as soon as possible.”
Skipper: I wish that had been the outcome. I didn’t ask for that outcome, though. I was overwhelmed by the circumstance. I simply just disclosed the facts, and it became clear in my conversation with Bob what I needed to do. Everything happened very quickly.
At least this extortion plot helped address his problem, and he’s getting the help he needs. With all the drama going on at the Mothership 24/7, this can’t be an easy job.