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Skipper Named ESPN President; Bodenheimer to Exec Chairman

With the Walt Disney Co. in a succession planning mood, CEO Bob Iger announced that ESPN President George Bodenheimer will become executive chairman in Jan. 2012, with John Skipper moving up to president.

Skipper, executive VP, content, at ESPN since October 2005, will assume day-to-day operating responsibilities. He also assumes Bodenheimer's duties as co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. Bodenheimer, who has run ESPN for 13 years, will be providing strategic direction and assisting with the transition.

"George has said repeatedly that ESPN's success has been led by its collaborative corporate culture and a deep bench of executive talent.  While that remains true, it obviously and intentionally downplays his leadership and many significant contributions.  We've focused on succession at all levels of Disney for some time now, and consistent with that approach, George initiated conversations last spring that led to today's announcement," Iger said in a statement. "With George's continued presence, John's experience and vision and an executive management team and workforce that are unparalleled in the sports media business, ESPN is extremely well positioned for continued success."

"I've been with ESPN 31 years -- my entire professional career. Constant change and consistent growth have marked each of those years, and to me those two themes underscore today's news," said Bodenheimer. "We've demonstrated that change managed well is healthy -- for companies and for people.  After 13 years as President, I felt it was a good time to step away from the day to day management of ESPN and let others take the lead."

Skipper has been responsible for negotiating new rights deals with the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, FIFA, The Masters, The British Open, Wimbledon and several college conferences. He also launched the ESPN Film series of documentaries.

"I am humbled and excited to be given the opportunity by Bob and George to lead this terrific company," said Skipper. "George set a high bar and an impeccable example, and I will dedicate all of my energy to follow George's lead in both empowering and supporting my 7,000 ESPN colleagues who do such great work every day.  I look forward to working alongside them in meeting the many challenges that lie ahead."