President of ESPN Inc. John Skipper speaks during the George Bodenheimer Book Party at Hearst Tower on June 2, 2015 in New York City.
Anna Webber—Getty Images for Hearst Corporat
March 15, 2018 12:05 PM EDT

Former ESPN president John Skipper said in a new interview that he left the cable sports network after a cocaine dealer tried to extort him.

Skipper, who cited issues with substance addiction when he left Disney‘s ESPN late last year, told The Hollywood Reporter that he had a cocaine habit and that the drug dealer’s threat led directly to his resignation. It was the first time Skipper offered more details about the substance addiction that led to his downfall.

Skipper said in the interview that he didn’t let his cocaine use interfere with his work at ESPN, and that he had never used the drug with anyone at work or with anyone with whom he conducted business. “I’ve never been a daily user,” he said. “My use over the past two decades has, in fact, been quite infrequent.”

But Skipper’s cocaine habit eventually caught up to him at work after a person who had sold him the drug attempted to extort him, threatening ESPN, and Disney by extension. After bringing up the threat Disney CEO Bob Iger, Skipper realized he had no choice but to resign.

“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.”

Write to Mahita Gajanan at

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