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Cocaine Dealer Tried To Extort Former ESPN President John Skipper, Forcing Resignation

BOSTON (CBS) -- When ESPN president John Skipper abruptly resigned in mid-December to address what he called substance addiction, the news sent shock waves through the sports and media industries. Now three months later, Skipper has detailed the exact reason why he left the job.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter's James Andrew Miller, Skipper revealed that he was an "infrequent" user of cocaine over several decades and that he was always "more than unusually clever in devising ways" to avoid getting caught. However, he ended up being less clever with one cocaine purchase last year.

"In December, someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me," Skipper said.

Skipper shared this predicament with Disney CEO Bob Iger, and the decision to resign was then tacitly understood as a necessary reality.

"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."

Skipper told THR that his drug use never interfered with his professional work, but this incident led to him directly seeking treatment.

"I acted very foolishly," he said. "It made me want to seek help and get this out of my life."

Skipper had spoken to ESPN employees on a Wednesday about the future of the company, but in the days that followed, he learned of the extortion plot which quickly led to his resignation the following Monday.

"It was an agonizing weekend," Skipper said. "I don't think I ate for the 48 hours. I was filled with great regret and tension. My stomach was churning. I wasn't sleeping. I was despondent. I was panicked. But, no, I never thought about trying to reverse course."

Skipper, 62, worked for the Disney Corporation since the '90s, and he was ESPN's president from January 2012 until December 2017. ESPN named James Pitaro as its new president this month.

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