ESPN president John Skipper announced his resignation from the Disney-owned Worldwide Leader in Sports on Monday, citing a “substance addiction” struggle.
While the 61-year-old executive takes care of his personal issues, it is the problem of Disney chairman Bob Iger and interim ESPN president George Bodenheimer to find a replacement for Skipper. In the spirit of the holidays, TheWrap did most of the legwork for those guys, identifying nine top possible successors to interview for the post. Scroll through to gallery to see them all.
Former president of ESPN turned current interim president of ESPN turned future president of ESPN? The guy who handed his job over to Skipper is assuming the role until he and Bob Iger find a suitable successor. You know, or until they give up and the 59-year-old Bodenheimer gives ESPN his life again. You have to consider Bodenheimer on a list like this, though he’s pretty much a retiree already.
How many promotions can one guy take? Schell was just upped in June to ESPN’s Executive Vice President of Content, where he is responsible for overseeing all aspects of ESPN’s content creation across television, digital and print platforms. That said, he lacks some business-side experience and needs a bit of polish to be the public face of ESPN. But he does have an Oscar.
The EVP, affiliate sales and marketing, Disney & ESPN Media Networks is actually the likely frontrunner for the Worldwide Leaders in Sports’ top job — or at least that’s what we’re told the current rumblings inside ESPN state. After all, he graduated from Harvard — twice. Go ahead and get a jumpstart on his new business cards.
Although ESPN is hyperaware of the optics of hiring another white man for the job, the female ESPN CFO probably doesn’t actually have enough content experience for the job. Skipper’s old post also requires a bit of glad-handing, which we’re told isn’t exactly Driessen’s strong suit.
David Preschlack: The NBC Sports Regional Networks president is an ESPN alum — and what he used to work on there may be as valuable as what Preschlack manages now. At ESPN, Preschlack handled oversight of content distributed on computers, smartphones, tablets and connected devices — he also oversaw the U.S. cable, telco and satellite affiliate sales, global distribution and strategy, digital video distribution and affiliate marketing. Now he’s got 9 RSNs under his thumb. Considering ESPN-owner Disney just bought 22 of those in the Fox deal…
The president of CBS Sports spent 16 years at ESPN — so yes, he knows where Bristol, Connecticut, is located on a map. Time to go home, Dave. Go to your home.
Another female candidate! (Unfortunately, as you’ll notice by the end of this gallery, no people of color on the current list.) Facebook COO Sandberg has a great tech background, obviously, and she also sits on the Disney advisory board — so there are ties here. Anyone could learn sports, right? This job is more about tech, digital and mobile than you may think.
Wait — tech and sports? I mean, come on. The Amazon alum is currently the CEO of BAMTech, the digital media company spun off by Major League Baseball’s MLB Advanced Media. Guess which rich cartoon mouse owns part of BAMTech? Yep, that one.
The president of Fox Sports Regional Networks may be headed in Disney’s direction anyway. Krolik currently oversees the day-to-day operations of Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks, the largest such RSN group in the country. That group is going to Disney as part of the mega Fox deal — presumably, so is he. It stands to reason that the folks at the un-sold Fox Sports 1 channel will stay put, but he might have a different story.
So here are our nine — who would you hire? Yes, there are other potential candidates both in-house and out-of-house. For this job, think tech, think mobile, think digital, think broadcast rights and/or network negotiating experience, think thick-skinned, Disney-friendly and public-facing.
Oh yeah, and think sports.