Jimmy Pitaro in 2013.

The discussion about who’s going to be the next full-time president of ESPN following John Skipper’s December resignation and George Bodenheimer’s interim stint appears to have ended. According to multiple reports, Jimmy Pitaro, currently Disney’s chairman of consumer products and interactive media, has been selected to fill the job. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal appears to have first reported that the move was actually made:

Jim Miller also reported the news:

ESPN made the announcement official shortly thereafter.

James Pitaro has been named President of ESPN and Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, it was announced today by Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. Mr. Pitaro, who has served as Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media since 2016, will report directly to Mr. Iger.

This came Monday after Recode’s Peter Kafka reported that his sources said Pitaro was “likely” the selection. In ESPN’s announcement about the hiring, here’s what Disney CEO Bob Iger had to say.

“Jimmy is a talented and dedicated leader with the right strategic vision, relentless drive and passion for sports required to lead the stellar ESPN team at this incredibly dynamic time,” Mr. Iger said. “Jimmy forged his career at the intersection of technology, sports and media, and his vast experience and keen perspective will be invaluable in taking ESPN into the future. I also want to extend my utmost thanks to George Bodenheimer for serving as Acting Chair of ESPN these past few months; he is a true industry pioneer and helped make ESPN the undisputed leader in sports.”

Kafka’s story has more on Pitaro:

Disney is poised to make an internal hire to run ESPN: Sources say Jimmy Pitaro, the company’s head of consumer products and interactive, is likely to run the giant and troubled sports network.

Pitaro has been at the top of most lists as Skipper’s likely replacement: He’s a favorite of CEO Bob Iger, and had previously been tapped as a likely successor to Skipper. At one point Pitaro was supposed to move from the Los Angeles area to ESPN’s home base in Connecticut as Skipper’s number two.

Instead, Pitaro stayed on running Disney’s consumer and digital group, which generated $4.8 billion in 2017, a 13 percent decrease from 2016.

Pitaro has been with Disney since 2010, entering as co-head of its interactive group with John Pleasants. He outlasted his co-president Pleasants, and later added consumer products and licensing to his responsibilities. CNBC’s Eric Jackson previously laid out the case for Pitaro having the “best shot” to take the ESPN president’s job in a piece published Jan. 23, which also mentioned fellow Disney execs Kevin Mayer and Bob Chapek, but argued that Pitaro was the most likely at that point:

Although Pitaro is not commonly discussed among the general business press, he is extremely well-liked in Silicon Valley. He worked at Launch Media as VP of business affairs for Dave Goldberg; Launch was eventually acquired by Yahoo, and Pitaro stayed on at Yahoo. He became head of all Yahoo Media after Jeff Weiner left.

People who worked with him at Launch and Yahoo describe Pitaro as very driven, passionate, and a hands-on operator. Two people separately referred to Pitaro as a “rock star.”

Others who know him from his time at Disney describe him as well-liked by Iger and also someone who makes level-headed decisions. “He’s a trusted and sound thinker,” said one person. Another said that Pitaro had made it known to Iger very directly that he one day wanted the ESPN job. Pitaro loves sports. “He’s a sports nut,” said one person.

And Miller discussed Pitaro a bit, and Disney CEO Bob Iger’s previous attempt to have him take a high-powered role at ESPN, in a Hollywood Reporter piece published Jan. 2:

If Skipper was contemplating an exit, the smart and easy path was to have simply said yes to Disney CEO Bob Iger’s invitation/urging to bring over to ESPN one of Iger’s most trusted lieutenants, Jimmy Pitaro, currently chairman of Disney’s products division. Going back a couple of years, this reporter learned that Iger had offered up Pitaro’s services to Skipper on several occasions to shore up what some in Burbank considered a less-than-stellar senior management team in Bristol, or at least one that didn’t have Skipper’s successor in its ranks.

But Skipper, in his most audacious move as president of ESPN, gave a Southern, polite “No thanks” to his boss and to the prospect of a Pitaro transfer, explaining that he thought the move would disrupt the ESPN culture and that Pitaro’s services were not needed. A more cynical view was that he didn’t want to have a clear successor in place, thereby guaranteeing his own longevity. Or so he thought.

Miller had some further commentary on that on Twitter Monday:

As did Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein:

Well, Pitaro is in place now. But what will he do with the job? Kafka notes that he does have some sports experience, but that it’s from a while back:

Pitaro hasn’t touched the sports business for years. Prior to Disney, he ran Yahoo’s media business, back when the company was still trying to decide whether it was a media company or a technology company (it never decided). And before that, he ran Yahoo’s once-powerful sports vertical from 2006 until 2009.

There are plenty of issues for Pitaro to deal with in this new role, from rising costs (especially around sports rights) to declining traditional subscribers (even if that’s levelled off a bit lately) to the forthcoming launch of the ESPN+ over-the-top service. We’ll see how he handles this.

[Recode; photo from Disney]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.