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Tom Rinaldi to Leave ESPN for Fox Sports

Rinaldi, winner of 16 Sports Emmys and the master storyteller of The Masters, was given an offer he could not refuse

Tom Rinaldi is leaving ESPN for Fox Sports in January. He was not among the ESPN layoffs, two people with knowledge of Rinaldi’s new and expiring deals told TheWrap.

The second person, who has intimate knowledge of Rinaldi’s expiring ESPN deal, told TheWrap that ESPN offered Rinaldi an increase in salary to stay, but that Fox Sports’ offer was “life-changing” money.

James Andrew Miller, the author of ESPN oral history “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” reported that Rinaldi asked ESPN to¬†not match Fox’s offer, which Miller speculated was in the $2 million-per-year ballpark. Our second source on this story said that ESPN was told the $2 million-per-year number was accurate. Fox Sports declined to comment on the financial aspects of Rinaldi’s new deal.

Rinaldi, the recipient of 16 Sports Emmy Awards and seven Edward R. Murrow Awards, has covered every major sporting event in his impressive career. Rinaldi is perhaps best known as the storyteller and interviewer at golf major The Masters, or maybe that’s just how this journalist, sports fan and fellow Columbia J-School alum likes to picture him.

We’re not alone in our praise for Rinaldi.

“Tom is one of the all-time great people in this business and a generational storyteller,” Eric Shanks, Fox Sports CEO, said in a statement on Thursday. “The biggest events on Fox just got bigger because of Tom, and we are honored to have him as our newest teammate.”

For their part, ESPN is “disappointed” to see Rinaldi leave for a competitor.

“We’re proud of the work we’ve done with Tom through the years. He is an award-winning storyteller and a skilled reporter, and we wish him continued success,” Stephanie Druley, ESPN’s executive vice president of event and studio production said in a statement. “While we are disappointed to see Tom move on, the moment we find ourselves in demands an even more disciplined approach to our business, and we are blessed with an exceptional group of storytellers who will lead us forward.”

That “disciplined” line refers to not matching what our second source for this story called a “staggering” offer from Fox Sports.

“I’m beyond excited to join the great team at Fox Sports,” Rinaldi said. “To contribute to the network’s incredible collection of live events, and to continue to tell the stories across those sports and in those venues, is such a fantastic opportunity. I can’t wait to get started.”

In 2016, Rinaldi authored the New York Times bestseller “The Red Bandanna: A Life, A Choice, A Legacy,” which chronicles the heroic acts and tragic death of former Boston College lacrosse player, volunteer firefighter and equities trader Welles Crowther, who lost his life while saving others in the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Tom Rinaldi graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.