Steve Young, Jeff Van Gundy, Suzy Kolber and Max Kellerman were among ESPN’s layoffs that reached an excruciating crescendo today with roughly 20 on-air personalities losing their jobs.
“Today I join the many hard-working colleagues who have been laid off,” Kolber wrote on Twitter. “Heartbreaking, but 27 years at ESPN was a good run.”
Among the ESPN talent Front Office Sports has confirmed who are getting the axe:
Kellerman and Johnson were expected to lose their roles on their ESPN Radio show, which also includes Jay Williams as a co-host. None of the three appeared on Friday morning’s show.
ESPN management under Jimmy Pitaro was loathe to order more layoffs, said sources. But they decided they would save more jobs of behind-the-scenes workers by focusing on seven-figure salaries of on-air talents who don’t work that often.
It’s also easier for celebrity ex-athletes and coaches to land new gigs compared to Bristol-based producers, directors and editors.
Following ESPN’s layoffs of Ellis, Van Gundy and Rose, the next shoe to drop is the NFL coverage team.
“Some big legacy names are going to be moving on,” warned one source. “Their NFL coverage is going to look different next year.”
Here’s how the layoffs unfolded on Friday.
Starting at 9 a.m. ET, the on-air talents received phone call informing them they were “no longer contributing to ESPN,” said one source.
Most of those let go will be bought out of their guaranteed contracts. They will still get their full pay. But won’t appear anymore on ESPN platforms.
If they choose to take another job, they must negotiate an exit from their current contracts with ESPN. That will likely involve giving up part of the money ESPN owes them.
Unfortunately, ESPN’s slow-motion layoffs aren’t over.
Once today’s talent exercise is concluded, ESPN managers will take a microscope to the rest of its long-term talent contracts.
Many won’t be renewed. That process is expected to take up to 12 months.
NBA analyst Vince Carter’s deal is up in September, said sources. He’s not expected to be renewed. Ditto for sports betting insider Doug Kezirian and boxing commentator Andre Ward. Their deals won’t be renewed either, said sources.
Front Office Sports previously broke the news that ESPN is not renewing the deals of NFL analyst Rob Ninkovich, NHL analyst Chris Chelios and popular SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett are not being renewed.
ESPN is not publicly releasing names, leaving it up to talent to share the news of their departure.
The Worldwide Leader in Sports employs about 5,000 people worldwide; 4,000 on its headquarters campus in Bristol, Conn.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined it necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries, and that process has begun. This exercise will include a small group of job cuts in the short-term and an ongoing focus on managing costs when we negotiate individual contract renewals in the months ahead,” said ESPN in a statement.
“This is an extremely challenging process, involving individuals who have had tremendous impact on our company. These difficult decisions, based more on overall efficiency than merit, will help us meet our financial targets and ensure future growth.”
Today I join the many hard-working colleagues who have been laid off.
Heartbreaking-but 27 years at ESPN was a good run.
So grateful for a 38 yr career!
Longevity for a woman in this business is something I’m especially proud of.
Next step- a project that gives back. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/URitozP0LQ
The six-month-long process of layoffs that began at parent Walt Disney Co. and extended to ESPN has devastated morale at the company.
During a previous round of off-camera cutbacks, ESPN lost veterans such as beloved communications ace Mike Soltys, Emmy Award-winning producer John Dahl and ESPN+ chief Russell Wolff.
“This place feels like a morgue,” said one employee in Bristol.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a developing story that will be updated throughout the day.