May 21, 2013

Mass layoffs in the works at ESPN

Some ESPN workers are calling it Black Tuesday.
Despite record profits, the Bristol-based company handing out layoff notices Tuesday to an unknown number of employees in what appears to be a cost-cutting move dictated by Walt Disney Co. executives.
It appears that about 6 percent of ESPN’s workforce got a pink slip.
In a companywide message sent out this morning on ESPN’s internal system, its president, John Skipper said, “We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our continued growth while smartly managing costs. While difficult, we are confident that it will make us more competitive, innovative and productive. “
Mike Soltys, an ESPN vice president, said the layoffs are worldwide. The company has 7,000 employees, with more than 4,000 of them based in Bristol.
Even after any layoffs, however, “we remain on track to reach the increase in jobs that are called for” under the First Five agreement reached between ESPN and Gov. Dannel Malloy, Soltys said.
That 2011 deal included a $17.5 million loan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development for the construction of a new 193,000-square-foot production facility.
The company vowed to create 200 jobs within five years in Bristol. The development package has incentives for the company to add up to 600 more jobs over 10 years.
The company is also on track to open its new production center next spring and to finish work on two other projects, a new welcome center and a generator facility, Soltys said.
Soltys said he couldn’t discuss the number of layoffs.
The author of a book about ESPN, Jim Miller, said on his Twitter account this afternoon that the cutbacks will number “between 300 and 400” people, but that “includes open jobs that won't now be filled.”
“Any layoff/firing/buyout is rare for Bristol culture. It is not being taken lightly. By anyone. No gain, just pain,” Miller wrote in another tweet.
ESPN is owned by Disney, which this month reported that its second quarter profits were up 32 percent.
Disney said at the time that much of the profit increases was due to ESPN, which was bringing in more revenue from affiliates and advertising that more than made up for “increased programming and production costs.”
The company laid off some workers at the height of the recession in 2009, but generally has increased its workforce over the years.

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