Former Current TV chief news officer and host Keith Olbermann is talking to the head honchos at ESPN, possibly about rejoining the sports news giant where he worked from 1992 to 1997. In fact, based on the details in a just published New York Times piece, the outspoken commentator has been exploring the idea of returning to ESPN for quite a while now.
A few months ago, Olbermann sat down to a very friendly dinner with ESPN president John Skipper at the Four Seasons. Skipper says Olbermann reached out about the dinner date, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. "I agreed to dinner with Keith because I assumed he'd be provocative and witty and fun to have dinner with, and he was indeed lots of fun. We talked sports and politics, and we had a nice chat. He is very interesting," said Skipper. The executive added, "Clearly he was looking to see if there was an entry point to come back."
In a way, the move makes a lot of sense. Olbermann rose to stardom when he helped get ESPN's Sportcenter off the ground and turn the network from a small cable channel to a multinational media company. He also wore a truly incredible moustache. Olbermann didn't leave the network on good terms — of course, he didn't leave MSNBC or Current on good terms either — but that was fifteen years ago. A lot's changed in the past fifteen years, though Olbermann's tendency to clash with his bosses and make hasty exists. One thing that's definitely changed is Olbermann's star power. Now that he has a massive audience of fans who've latched on to his firebrand style of news commentary, Olbermann stands to bring a new audience to ESPN. That is, if they think they can handle him.
It already looks like Keith and ESPN are burying the hatchet, though. Olbermann recently participated in an ESPN documentary about baseball cards. (Olbermann loves baseball cards.) Unnamed executives also told The Times that "Olbermann's representatives" had been contacting high-level people at the network in recent weeks about job possibilities. That said, Olbermann's people have apparently been contacting a lot of companies in the past few months and tried to find their boss a job.
So who knows how seriously to take the recent Olbermann-ESPN activity. Olbermann's currently wrapped up in a $70 million lawsuit against Current TV, where he held an ownership stake and the highest editorial position until it all fell apart in a very predictable little scandal. Depending on how that turns out, Olbermann might really need the money. His sunset photography doesn't quite scream "second career."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.