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April 25, 2023

ESPN begins layoffs

Wikimedia Commons | ESPN headquarters in Bristol.

Bristol-based ESPN began implementing layoffs on Monday, following an announcement in February by its corporate owner, Walt Disney Co., that the company would reduce 7,000 jobs through layoffs and attrition.

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said in a company memo sent to employees that those affected will hear from their supervisor and human relations this week, according to the Associated Press. The company has not said how many people will be laid off this week.

Another round of cuts involving on-air talent is expected this summer via contracts not being renewed, buyouts or cuts, the AP reported.

Pitaro said ESPN must “further identify ways to be efficient and nimble.”

“We will continue to focus our workforce on initiatives that are most closely aligned with our critical priorities and emphasize decision-making and responsibility deeper into the organization,” he wrote in the memo.

Among the employees who were let go on Monday was Mike Soltys, longtime vice president of communications. Soltys worked at ESPN for 43 years and said in a Facebook post that he is open to ideas on what to do next.

In his role, he focused on public relations strategy, media relations, issue management, content creational, editorial, teaching/mentoring/advising, government relations, the post said. Outside of work, Soltys volunteered as board chairman for a local soup kitchen.

He said that, in the near-future, he will continue to support his wife Teresa, who has cancer.

“When she beats it, we will travel the world and adore our first grandchild,” Soltys wrote, noting that the newborn may arrive any day.

He also thanked ESPN colleagues, “especially the two people who took a chance on me in 1980.”

According to CNBC, Disney is cutting costs as it tries to increase cash flow as streaming losses persist. ESPN is working to renew its contract with the National Basketball Association and will likely have to pay a significant premium on the $1.4 billion per year rights fee it already pays the league. 

Renewal discussions with the NBA are underway, according to CNBC, citing an unnamed person familiar with the matter.

ESPN has more than 4,000 employees at its Bristol headquarters.

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