The Walt Disney Company president and chief executive officer Robert A. Iger today announced two significant updates to its executive team. Effective January 1, George Bodenheimer has been named executive chairman of ESPN, and John Skipper named ESPN president and co-chair, Disney Media Networks.

Bodenheimer (pictured) is currently president of ESPN and ABC Sports and co-chair of Disney Media Networks. As executive chairman of ESPN, he will hand over his day-to-day operating responsibilities to Skipper, who has served as ESPN’s executive vice president, Content, since October 2005. Bodenheimer will continue to chair ESPN’s board of directors and reporting to Iger. Skipper will have a dual report to Iger and Bodenheimer.

Iger said Bodenheimer initatiated this move as part of the company’s ongoing endeavors to ensure a smooth transition following chairman John E. Pepper’s retirement from the board at Disney’s 2012 annual shareholder meeting in March.

“George has said repeatedly that ESPN’s success has been led by its collaborative corporate culture and a deep bench of executive talent. While that remains true, it obviously and intentionally downplays his leadership and many significant contributions,” Iger said. “With George’s continued presence, John’s experience and vision and an executive management team and workforce that are unparalleled in the sports media business, ESPN is extremely well positioned for continued success.”

ESPN has driven digital and technological advances under Bodenheimer’s leadership, as demonstrated by ESPN’s Digital Center and a second digital facility at its headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut; a West Coast production facility in Los Angeles; an Innovation Lab in Orlando, Florida; and, in conjunction with Disney, a Media and Ad Lab in Austin, Texas. Today, ESPN is comprised of eight U.S. television networks, five HD services, a 3D TV network, 48 international networks, 13 international editions of SportsCenter, 18 web sites, 750 radio affiliates, one of the largest mobile sports operations, and 7,000 employees worldwide.

As executive vice president, Content, Skipper is responsible for the creation, programming and production of ESPN content across all media platforms, including television, radio, the Internet, broadband, wireless, interactive games and home entertainment. Under his leadership, ESPN has consistently set records for television ratings and digital consumption; negotiated several major rights agreements with the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, FIFA, the Masters Tournament, the British Open, the USTA, Wimbledon and several college conferences; and launched a wide variety of creative programming, including the critically acclaimed ESPN Films sports documentary series.

In October, The Walt Disney Company’s Board of Directors extended Iger’s contract through June 2016 as part of the company’s ongoing succession planning. Following Pepper’s retirement, Iger will hold the positions of chairman and chief executive officer through March 31, 2015, at which time a new chief executive officer will be named; Iger will thereafter serve as executive chairman for 15 months through June 30, 2016. Iger’s current contract was set to expire on Jan. 31, 2013.