Dan Le Batard, the popular and opinionated ESPN talk-show host, is walking away from the sports-media giant after working there in various capacities for nearly a decade.
Le Batard, who in mid-2019 openly challenged what had been ESPN’s policy not to address straight political matters, is leaving to pursue a new opportunity that neither party described. The last broadcast of his “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” on ESPN Radio will take place January 4, and will subsequently be replaced by Mike Greenberg’s new radio program, “Greeny.” Le Batard will host his last episode of the ESPN TV program “Highly Questionable” on the same day. ESPN said that program will continue to run as part of its regular lineup.
Le Batard is the latest in a string of prominent content executives and personnel to announce their departure from ESPN in recent days and comes as the Disney unit has been grappling with the sometimes crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Connor Schell and Libby Geist, two of the company’s top executives overseeing content and programming, have said they intend to leave and Ryan Spoon, its former head of digital content, is moving to a job involving sports betting. ESPN announced last month that it would eliminate 500 positions in a bid to free up cash for projects aimed at viewers who connect to sports and relate programming in digital fashion.
“It was mutually agreed that it was best for both sides to move on to new opportunities and we worked together closely to make that possible,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president and executive editor, in a prepared statement. “We thank Dan for his many years and contributions to ESPN and wish him all the best going forward.”
If ESPN was pleased with Le Batard in recent months, it was having a hard time showing it. The simulcast of his radio program was moved from ESPNNews and placed behind a paywall at broadband outlet ESPN Plus, a move Le Batard criticized in public. Meanwhile, Le Batard generated some headlines by using his own money to keep a producer on his show who was initially cut by ESPN as part of its restructuring.
“Gracias to ESPN for unleashing Papi and Stugotz upon an unsuspecting America, and for lending its substantive credibility to our careening clown car,” Le Batard said in a statement, referring to broadcasting partner Jon “Stugotz” Weiner and his father, Gonzalo, who had been part of the regular “Highly Questionable” lineup. He added: “To our loyal army of concerned fans, and to everyone who walked along and played an instrument in our Marching Band to Nowhere, know that it is a very exciting time for us, not a sad one. And that you’ll be hearing our laughter again soon enough.”
Le Batard is a Miami sports fixture, having worked for the Miami Herald for more than 25 years. He has been doing sports radio since 2004. ESPN Radio picked up the Miami-based program in 2013. Over the years, Le Batard has brought higher profiles to a range of his associates, including Miami Herald writer Greg Cote. Last month, Le Batard announced he would rehire Chris Cote, son of Greg Cote and a popular producer, as his assistant after it became known ESPN was eliminating the younger Cote’s position. Le Batard planned to use his own money to pay for the job.