Chris Licht Departs as CNN CEO Following Devastating Magazine Profile

Chris Licht, the CEO of CNN, has announced his resignation on Wednesday morning. The decision comes in the wake of a damaging magazine profile that resulted in alienation among staff members and senior figures at the network, who demanded his removal.

Warner Bros. Discovery, the corporate parent of CNN, confirmed that Licht’s resignation is effective immediately.

Licht’s departure occurs just over a year after he assumed the role from Jeff Zucker, the highly regarded former network chief who was compelled to step down due to revelations about a relationship with a subordinate.

Licht has accused Zucker of undermining his leadership by planting negative stories about the news organization.

“I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said in a statement.

“The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation, and he has poured his heart and soul into it.”

Chris Licht is stepping down as CEO of CNN, according to reports.
Getty Images
Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s corporate parent, announced Licht’s resignation effective immediately.

Licht is telling outraged supporters, “I hope they get the leader they deserve,” according to a source.

The company has revealed that Chris Licht will be temporarily replaced by a group of experienced programming leaders. This group includes Amy Entelis, the executive vice president of talent and content development; Virginia Moseley, the executive vice president of editorial; and Eric Sherling, who oversees US-based programming.

Warner Bros. Discovery has announced that David Leavy, a long-standing trusted aide to Zaslav and recently appointed chief operating officer, will oversee the commercial aspects of the company.

The company announced that Licht will be replaced in the interim by a group “comprising seasoned programming leaders” such as Amy Entelis, the executive vice president of talent and content development.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said in a statement he has “great respect” for Licht.

Zaslav addressed CNN staffers during a morning editorial meeting on Wednesday.

“I wanted you to hear this news directly from me as it impacts you and your teams,” Zaslav told CNN staffers.

“I met with Chris and he will be leaving CNN,” Zaslav said.

“We’re in the process of conducting a wide search, internally and externally, for a new leader.”

Zaslav praised Licht for an “amazing career.”

He said Licht “poured his heart and soul into this job” but “for a number of reasons, it didn’t work out.”

“Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we had hoped — and ultimately that’s on me,” Zaslav told CNN personnel.

“I take full responsibility,” Zaslav said, adding: “We wish him every success and all the best.”

Licht angered CNN staffers who were incensed about the town hall last month with former President Donald Trump.

Over the past 48 hours, Chris Licht made desperate efforts to regain the support of disgruntled staffers. The Atlantic profile had portrayed him as thin-skinned, distant, and excessively concerned about negative media coverage. He was also depicted as resentful of the lingering loyalty of the staff towards his predecessor, Zucker.

Licht’s criticism of CNN’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic provoked outrage among the network’s employees. Furthermore, many were infuriated by his decision last month to organize a live town hall event featuring former President Donald Trump, where his supporters enthusiastically applauded and cheered while the presumed GOP nominee clashed with moderator Kaitlan Collins.

On Monday, Licht issued an apology to the staffers during an editorial call. The following day, according to The Post’s report, he began reaching out to network anchors with whom he had never previously spoken, making phone calls in an attempt to mend relationships.

Zaslav last week announced that his longtime trusted lieutenant, David Leavy, would assume the role of CNN COO.
Getty Images for Discovery, Inc.

“He has been calling anchors who have never spoken to him before,” said a source. “He needs to win the room but the [Atlantic] piece shortened his window of time to do that.”

Staffers had anticipated that Zaslav would eventually show Licht the door.

Observers thought the writing was on the wall for Licht after Zaslav tapped Leavy as the new COO last week.

Originally, the plan was for Leavy to take charge of CNN’s commercial operations at a later date this month. However, due to the negative impact on public relations resulting from The Atlantic article, the timeline was accelerated.

A magazine feature depicted Licht as resentful of lingering staff loyalty to his predecessor, Jeff Zucker.
Getty Images for WarnerMedia

Licht’s mea culpa was apparently too little, too late to save his job.

“I should not be in the news,” Licht told alienated staffers during Monday’s editorial call.

“I know these past few days have been very hard for this group,” the former executive producer for Stephen Colbert added.

“I fully recognize that this news cycle and my role in it overshadowed the incredible week of reporting that we just had, and distracted from the work of every single journalist in this org,” Licht told staffers.

“And for that, I am sorry.”

“As I read that article, I found myself thinking, CNN is not about me,” Licht continued.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *