George Bodenheimer is leaving ESPN, according to the Disney-ABC sports network. Bodenheimer has been at ESPN almost since its inception—he started working there in 1981—and will now work at The V Foundation, a cancer research charity he helped form in 1993 with the late ESPN commentator Jim Valvano.
Bodenheimer's legacy at the company is a strong one: the network currently boasts the highest affiliate fee in the market at an incredible $5.54 (the industry average is $.25) and remains one of the most valuable properties on television. In 2011, Bodenheimer stepped down from the role of president to assume an essentially emeritus role as executive chairman while John Skipper was promoted to president (Bodenheimer reported to Disney head Bob Iger; Skipper reported to Iger and Bodenheimer).
“Every day I was asked questions about the future, and my favorite answer was, ‘ESPN has the best employees in the business,'" Bodenheimer told staff in a memo. “ESPN’s future is bright, which is of great comfort to anyone who cares deeply about our company.”
Skipper, too, weighed in on the departure of his predecessor. "“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," he wrote. "[H]is work ethic was unparalleled, his focus on teamwork always clear."