Accomplished executives Jodi Markley and Connor Schell are leaving ESPN, effective April 2 and January 8, respectively, capping their extraordinarily impactful ESPN careers. Schell, ESPN’s Executive Vice President, Content, who has been with ESPN since 2004, has decided to leave in order to form an independent production company where ESPN will be its first client. Markley, Executive Vice President, Content Operations & Creative Services, has chosen to retire after 32 years, ending an influential ESPN career. In connection with these changes, ESPN is unveiling its new senior leadership structure.
Markley, one of ESPN’s most successful and admired executives, has been a mentor and innovator since joining full-time in March 1989. She has served in many leadership positions at ESPN, primarily within the operations and international areas. The award-winning executive has been instrumental in numerous network launches in the U.S. and around the globe, and has been at the forefront of ESPN’s industry-leading operational and technological enhancements. Markley, who has been in her current role since 2016, has been widely recognized for her achievements and has served on numerous industry boards.
Schell, who has been a driving creative force while serving in various ESPN leadership positions, will continue his storytelling work by establishing a new company. Schell’s company will work closely with ESPN Films and other senior executives to produce 30 for 30 films and The ESPYS. He will also serve as an Executive Producer on, among other things, the previously announced docuseries on the journey of Colin Kaepernick, and Man in the Arena, a nine-part, first-hand account of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl journeys. Schell has been in his current ESPN role since 2017. Under Schell, ESPN has won numerous honors for content, including an Academy Award for “O.J.: Made in America” and a 2020 Primetime Emmy for “The Last Dance.”
As a part of these developments and other changes taking place in terms of how fans are consuming sports content, a new senior leadership team is being named by Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, to guide ESPN into the future. Pitaro’s direct reports going forward and their overarching areas of responsibility are (in alphabetical order):
Chara-Lynn Aguiar, Vice President, Strategy and Office of the Chairman, will continue to focus on ESPN’s strategic development and serve as an advisor to the Chairman and his direct reports, providing insight and managing a wide variety of internal and external relationships.
Stephanie Druley, Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production, will co-lead ESPN’s production area, including Monday Night Football, college football, NBA, studio and event production.
Laura Gentile, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Social Media, will be responsible for the creative marketing for the ESPN brand, including all shows and platforms, special events and will also pick up responsibility for its social media content.
Thomas Hennessy, Senior Vice President, Finance, will manage ESPN’s financial matters and budgets, in collaboration with colleagues at The Walt Disney Company.
Rob King, Senior Vice President, Editor-At-Large, will be responsible for the company’s overall journalistic direction, working closely with leaders across ESPN Films and original content, digital content, social media, multi-platform journalism and storytelling and global content, and will advise ESPN and its senior leadership team on editorial issues.
Chris LaPlaca, Senior Vice President, Communications, will lead internal and external communications efforts.
Burke Magnus, Executive Vice President, Programming and Original Content, will oversee programming acquisition and scheduling, and now be responsible for ESPN and ESPN+ original content development and scheduling.
Kevin Merida, Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, The Undefeated, will lead this expanding platform that showcases the intersection of race, culture and sports, and will also partner closely with the Disney General Entertainment and Hulu teams to expand this groundbreaking property.
Diane Morse, Chief Counsel, will guide ESPN on all legal matters and governmental affairs.
Paul Richardson, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, will oversee the wide-ranging HR functions, including diversity and inclusion, corporate citizenship and security.
Tina Thornton, Senior Vice President, Content Operations, formerly in the Office of the President, will now lead ESPN’s remote operations and events, Creative Works and Creative Services, ESPN Synergy, and the ESPN Next program, among other responsibilities.
Mark Walker, Senior Vice President, Content Business Development and Innovation, will be responsible for identifying and developing collaborative relationships to drive ESPN’s content initiatives forward.
Norby Williamson, Executive Vice President and Executive Editor, will co-lead ESPN’s production area, including its flagship SportsCenter, Get Up and First Take studio shows and event production, as well as cross-platform journalism and storytelling.
ESPN EXECUTIVE QUOTES
From Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content
“When Jodi and Connor each approached me about starting their next chapters, those conversations were filled with mixed emotions. Jodi has been a trailblazer, not just at ESPN, but throughout our industry, and, because of her entrepreneurial approach, ESPN has always led the way. Connor is an exceptional storyteller who has led some of the biggest content success stories in all of media. He brings great vision and passion to his work and that’s why I’m particularly pleased that he will continue to partner with ESPN on our film development and ESPYS initiatives in his new role. I am very happy for both of them; they have accomplished so much here and will certainly be missed at ESPN.
“Going forward, our newly-formed senior leadership group is poised to drive future success. The talented team is comprised of gifted and respected leaders. They are diverse thinkers who bring a collaborative spirit and a necessary focus on future strategy. I’m thrilled to have them as colleagues.”
From Jodi Markley
“It has been an honor and a privilege to be a part of ESPN over the past 32 years. I am proud of the industry-leading innovation and creativity of our team, and feel blessed to have worked alongside such incredibly talented people who love what they do. I am confident in the direction we are headed under Jimmy Pitaro and will enjoy my next chapter as a fan.”
From Connor Schell
“ESPN is an incredible place and it has been a true privilege to be a part of this team for the past 16+ years. I am so thankful to Jimmy Pitaro and Bob Iger for their creative leadership and to my remarkable colleagues across ESPN whose work inspires and entertains sports fans every single day. As I launch this new production company, I am excited to transition back to a role where I can more directly tell stories and I couldn’t think of a better way to get started than continuing to work on 30 for 30 with Jimmy and ESPN.”