ESPN, the world-known sports cable and television channel based in Bristol, Connecticut, is cutting 300 jobs worldwide, including 200 in Connecticut.
ESPN president John Skipper sent a note to employees Wednesday morning, saying organizational changes at the company will "include the elimination of a number of positions, impacting friends and colleagues across the organization."
The Associated Press reports 300 jobs amount to around 4 percent of the staff. ESPN announced Wednesday it is cutting about 200 jobs to Connecticut.
"We carefully considered and deliberated alternatives before making each decision. The people who will be leaving us have been part of ESPN’s success, and they have our respect and appreciation for their contributions," Skipper said in the note. "We will be as supportive as we can during this transition, including providing a minimum of 60-days notice, a severance package reflective of their years of service, and outplacement benefits to help them find future employment."
The network employs about 7,000 people worldwide, 4,000 of whom work out of the Bristol facility, making ESPN the biggest employer and taxpayer in Bristol.
"I realize this process will be difficult – for everyone – but we believe the steps we are taking will ultimately create important competitive advantages for our business over the long term. I sincerely appreciate your professionalism and continued support as we move forward to ensure the continued success of ESPN and assure sports fans everywhere the best is yet to come," Skipper said in the note to employees.
ESPN was the third company to take advantage of the state’s "First Five" economic development program. It committed to expanding, including breaking ground on the new Digital Center 2, the 19th and largest building on ESPN’s Bristol campus, creating a minimum of 200 new full-time jobs within five years.
In exchange for ESPN’s commitment, the state said it was investing in a 10-year, $17.5 million loan from the Department of Economic and Community Development and up to $1.2 million to fund a job training grant program ranging from $300,000 for 200 jobs created to $150,000 for each additional 100 jobs created up to 800 jobs.
Bristol Mayor Kenneth Cockayne is hopeful the people affected will stay in Bristol and find jobs in town. He said ESPN is "bringing in out-placement services" and that "they're going to bring in all the powers that ESPN has to help these employees find new jobs."
“I spoke to ESPN this morning," Cockayne said. "They called me to tell me what’s going on. It’s not a happy day to be at ESPN. I can tell you that much. It’s not only a difficult time for ESPN, these are tough choices, but also for the employees and their families.”
Many employees shop at nearby stores in Bristol after work.
“I think it’s obviously going to affect my business and the surrounding business too because more than 25-percent of my business depends on ESPN," Sonny Sidhu, owner of Bristol Wine & Spirits, said.
The owner of Uncle Sam’s Restaurant and Pizza hopes her business is not affected by the cuts and her ESPN regulars are not the ones that will be let go.
People in Bristol worry ESPN positions are specialized and people laid off will have to move to find a new job.
“I’m not happy about it. I’m just not happy about people losing their jobs. It’s not good for the economy," Pat Bedmaz, who works in Bristol, said.
ESPN said affected workers will receive at least 60 days of notice, a severance package and help finding a new job.
“No city, I don’t care what city, wants to see 200 layoffs," Cockayne said. “....We’re here as a city to support ESPN in any way we can.”
ESPN already honored its commitments to create jobs and open the door on millions in state tax credits and incentives, which total about $20 million over ten years. The media company created hundreds of jobs as part of the state's First Five program, receiving tax incentives meant to secure ESPN stayed in Bristol.
It's unclear whether the layoffs will put those state incentives in jeopardy moving forward.
But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was optimistic that ESPN would make a round of new hiring over the next year because that has been a pattern for them in the past.
“First and foremost, obviously, you’re disappointed for the folks but I’ll make you a prediction that they’ll be hiring again within the year," Malloy said. "We’ve lived through these ups and downs with them. There is more competition. There are some changes going on in the entertainment field.”
A high-ranking executive in Hartford told NBC Connecticut people shouldn't look at the ESPN news as a bad reflection on Connecticut at this time, but instead said it may be indicative of changes at ESPN and we could see more in the future.