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George Bodenheimer Leaving ESPN

ESPN executive George Bodenheimer will conclude his 33-year run at the company at the end of the month.

Bodenheimer was the network’s longest-tenured president, serving from 1998 until the end of 2011, before John Skipper took over in January 2012, with Bodenheimer moving to a more advisory role as executive chairman.

“I have been proud to represent the men and women of ESPN,” said Bodenheimer in a note to colleagues. “Every day I was asked questions about the future, and my favorite answer was, ‘ESPN has the best employees in the business. They know what the mission of the company is, and together we will figure it out…I have great faith that it will always be true.’”

Bodenheimer has been with ESPN for nearly its entire history, joining as a mailroom driver in 1981, just 16 months after the network launched. Prior to becoming president in 1998 – a role he would assume from his longtime mentor and B&C hall of famer Steve Bornstein – Bodenheimer was responsible for affiliate sales, advertising sales, marketing and research for all of ESPN’s domestic networks.

ESPN experienced perhaps its largest expansion during Bodenheimer’s tenure as president. In that time, the company added four domestic TV networks and 28 international channels, saw ESPN and ESPN2 both reach nearly 100 million households and increase its digital presence from 1 website to 18.

Bodenheimer was instrumental in acquiring long-term multiplatform rights – rather than shorter-term TV-only deals, which had been the norm. Under his tenure, ESPN cut deals with major pro leagues such as the NBA, the NFL (including moving Monday Night Football from ABC to ESPN), MLB, as well as major college conferences including the SEC, Pac 12, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12, and the Bowl Championship Series.

The campus in ESPN’s home base of Bristol, Conn. also increased to 116 acres (from 39), 18 buildings (from eight) and 1.3 million square feet (from 260,000). The network is readying a move to its new Digital Center 2 next month.

ESPN said Bodenheimer would now focus his attention towards The V Foundation, which he helped create.

“It is impossible to completely capture the impact George has had on our company and on so many of us during his remarkable 33 years with ESPN…his work ethic was unparalleled, his focus on teamwork always clear,” said Skipper. “He believed completely in the collective talent of ESPN’s employees, and he combined a realist’s pragmatism with an optimist’s faith in navigating ESPN through unprecedented growth.”