ESPN Layoffs Exceed 100, Sources Say; Company Vows Continued Growth

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ESPN is laying off employees in a cost-saving move that will affect more than 100 people in Bristol and more elsewhere, according to multiple sources, although the company did not report the size of the cutback.

Layoffs mostly happened Tuesday but were expected to continue for some employees Wednesday, sources 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,” the sports television giant said in a written statement released Tuesday.

That line about continued growth might seem like pure corporate speak and in some ways it is. But ESPN, with more than 4,000 people in Bristol, continues to recruit and fill many open jobs through its active hiring web site.  That’s the nature of this type of cutback, and the hope is that some of the people laid off will land different jobs the company is filling.

Sources said the layoffs in Bristol alone would total more than 100.  Worldwide, including targeted cuts by attrition as well as layoffs, the number of job reductions would be in the low hundreds according to sources and news reports. The net effect of 2013 hiring and job eliminations by attrition was not known.

A small office in Denver was closed as part of the cuts, sources said.

ESPN has grown consistently, reaching more than 7,000 employees worldwide, spokesman Mike Soltys said Tuesday — including part-time as well as full-time employees.  The  Bristol headcount is up from earlier this year, when the network said it had just under 4,000, and would take a break from adding new buildings after the current round of expansion was done.

Tuesday’s layoffs will not push ESPN out of  Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s First Five program, under which the network received a low-interest, partly forgivable loan of $17.5 million and as much as $8 million in grants and tax breaks in exchange for investing at least $25 million and adding at least 200 jobs in the five years starting August, 2011.

The layoffs are in areas and job descriptions “across the board,” Soltys said, adding that the reduction will include positions eliminated by attrition.

An employee at the sprawling Bristol campus said Tuesday there was no specific target of the cuts, and that the company was saying little to its staff.  “It’s been kind of a general head-picking,” the employee said. “The number appears to be relatively small but the problem is, you don’t know where it’s going to hit…it’s been dotted throughout the day.”

ESPN is a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co., which has also been eliminating jobs at its far-flung operations. Deadline Hollywood, an entertainment news site, said Tuesday that Disney eliminated 150 jobs at its film studio over the last several weeks.

Soltys and Andrew Doba, spokesman for Malloy, both emphasized that the layoff is not a threat to ESPN’s role as the dominant player in Connecticut’s burgeoning sports media industry.

“ESPN has been and will continue to be a key employer and economic driver for Connecticut.  They remain well on their way to meeting their hiring goals as part of the First Five program,” Doba said.

Soltys declined to say how many full-time jobs the company had added since the deal was signed. But  even during its expansions, ESPN has had significant layoffs in the past — one in 2001 and another in 2009.

The latest expansion includes ESPN’s largest and most expensive building, its Digital Center 2, which is on schedule to open next spring.

In all, the network has received more than $100 million in Connecticut state tax breaks in the last dozen years.  Even before the First Five deal, ESPN carved out a permanent, $15 million-a-year tax break with the state under an expansion agreement reached in 2000.  In addition, the network had received $50.3 million for digital infrastructure development through the state’s film and digital tax credit program as of last fall.

All those deals makes sense by the numbers as long as ESPN spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year in Connecticut. But the state’s grants, loans and tax breaks don’t exactly challenge the Bristol juggernaut to keep up its historic pace of job creation. That has helped fuel the debate about the public assistance — whether it’s needed to prod ESPN and other companies to hire.

Next year, for example, ESPN will add a Southeast Conference network with production facilities in Charlotte, N.C. — a state with a very aggressive corporate payola strategy. That project is likely to mean some added jobs in Bristol.  How many? In this job environment, the state can’t afford to risk spurning its high-profile employers.

Got more information about Tuesday’s layoffs? Please let me know at dhaar@courant.com.

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19 thoughts on “ESPN Layoffs Exceed 100, Sources Say; Company Vows Continued Growth

  1. Jon Pok

    Didn’t Governor Malloy give ESPN a multi-million dollar tax incentive to create jobs in the State of CT around a year ago?

  2. Mike Lambert

    Have driven by that location in ghe past. I enjoy the ESPN programing and hope this turns for the best.

  3. LOST IN CT

    Ridiculous. Disney/ ESPN never need the money from Malloy to stay and build they new facility, it was already underway before the Moron Malloy started handing out millions to billionaires…

    Now they lay off hundreds of our fellow tax paying mainly good wage earning people…

    Malloy is a joke.

  4. razzing

    It`s not just the state giving them tax breaks the city of Bristol also gives them tax breaks ,largest employer in a town that gives all these big hotshots a free ride basically, what a joke and they wonder why all these state and local govts are broke ,you can go on and on about Bristol’s messed up deals!

  5. Mitch

    More TAXPAYER money out the door. Love to see the return on investment on this bungled move by Malloy. Just like all of the other ones. Does anyone question what this guy does? You voted for him, Connecticut, enjoy it. Maybe people will wise up the next time.

  6. Mary

    But don’t they bring most of their employees in from the outside? And millions in tax breaks for how many jobs? Seems to me those millions could have re-trained or paid for trade school for 2x as many people then ESPN will actually will hire at at least you KNOW they are ct residents and not transplants from another state. Bad deal all around, but that’s politics.

  7. pete

    Think about it DANNY BOY and the “RATS raise OUR taxes to give to the PIGS and then they lay off people and who cares. I say end the giveaways and CUT OUR taxes. Corps don’t move to CORRUPTICUT anymore unless they are bribed. Prior to Lowell P(ig) Weicker rammed the income tax down our throats by buying votes with judgeships and other cushy jobs this state attracted companies from NYC. WHY? Because there was NO PERSONAL INCOME TAX and CEOS care about their personal pocketbooks. Since 1991 the ONLY way CT can get a major corp to move here is with BRIBES a/k/a MULA A/K/A TAX BREAKS. And when the deal ends they ask for more a la UBS. CT is dead. Wether it is an RINO masquerading as an independent – Weicker a true RINO – Rowland sleeping beauty – Rell or the clown DANNY BOY they are all the same. INCOMPETENT. They have all raised taxes, spending and bonding and the state goes deeper into the abyss. And who do we have running next year – the clown DANNY BOY unless that judgeship comes through and the pathetic RINO McKinney who the pathetic RINO party just gave an award to. The so called Republicans in this state are LIBERALS IN DISGUISE. THEY HAVE NO SPINE. THEY PRETEND THAT THEY ARE DIFFERENT BUT THEY ARE NOT. Oh did you hear the latest -a the rats want to up OUR TAXES ONCE AGAIN – I TOLD YOU FOOLS IT WOULD HAPPEN

    1. thomas

      Every State bribes companies with incentives to move to their state. It has always been the case and it always will. No income/business/property tax has ever made a company just up and move. States with those circumstances also provide extra incentives. Quality of Life and the Quality of our People make Connecticut a great place to have a business. Some of the largest corporations and wealthiest individuals still live here and they are not going anywhere…

  8. Joe

    The issue is since 2009 they have done layoffs. I was impacted in 2009 with over 300 other, Since then they have done 50 to 100 layoffs per year and now 400 this year 2013. I hope someone in the State of CT does the math and does not begin the incentive 200 job count until all these lost jobs are back first. But of course the State of CT won’t do that.

  9. America Is Dying

    This can’t be happening, CT is open for business according to Danny Boy!

    1. Connecticut is Circling the Drain

      Not to worry. We still have the $1M/job Jackson Labs coming in 10 years and of course the magnificent Hartford to New Britain crack shuttle.

  10. Jack

    ESPN’s parent Disney has profits and stock price through the roof. Lots of your cable bill is for ESPN and sports. I guess Disney CEO Robert Iger can’t live on $40million a year.

  11. Quinte West

    Oh you are all so negative!!! Have confidence in Governor Malloy!!!
    Why, just they other day I heard him say to the ESPN folks that lost their jobs that Thuh Thuh Thuh Thu Thats all FFFFF-olks! Ct is OOOOOOO-pen for BBBBBBuisness…

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