Jeff Zucker quits CNN after relationship with top executive

Jeff Zucker resigned as CNN president and president of WarnerMedia’s news and sports division on Wednesday, writing in a memo that he had not disclosed to the company a romantic relationship with another senior CNN executive. .

Mr Zucker, 56, is one of the most powerful executives in the US media and television industries. The abrupt end to his nine-year tenure immediately upends the management of CNN and its parent company, WarnerMedia, which is set to be acquired later this year by Discovery Inc. in one of the nation’s largest media mergers.

In a memo to colleagues obtained by The New York Times, Zucker wrote that his relationship came up during a network investigation into the conduct of Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor who was fired in December for his involvement in the political affairs of his brother, former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York.

“As part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo’s tenure at CNN, I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I’ve worked with for over 20 years,” he said. writes Mr. Zucker. “I acknowledged that the relationship had evolved over the past few years. I was required to disclose it when it started, but I didn’t. I was wrong.”

“As a result, I resign today,” he wrote.

Mr. Zucker was referring to Allison Gollus, CNN’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer and one of the network’s top executives, who is closely involved in major business and communications decisions.

Ms. Gollust said in a statement Wednesday that she remains in her role at CNN.

“Jeff and I have been close friends and business partners for over 20 years,” she wrote. “Recently our relationship changed during Covid. I regret that we did not reveal it at the right time. I am incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do every day.

Mr. Zucker and Ms. Gollus are divorced.

In a memo to WarnerMedia employees, Jason Kilar, the company’s chief executive, acknowledged that he had accepted Mr. Zucker’s resignation, adding, “We will be announcing an interim leadership plan shortly.”

Mr Cuomo challenged the terms of his departure from CNN, which said it would not pay him a severance package or honor the remainder of his current contract. The anchor has hired high-powered Hollywood litigator Bryan Freedman to represent him in negotiations with the network.

Mr Zucker had backed Mr Cuomo for months after it was revealed the presenter had advised aides to Andrew Cuomo on how the governor could stave off the sexual harassment scandal that ultimately led to his resignation. But Mr Zucker dropped his support in December after more details emerged of Mr Cuomo’s involvement, including efforts to find out the status of pending stories in other news outlets about his brother.

Days before Mr. Cuomo’s firing, CNN was made aware of an allegation of sexual misconduct against Mr. Cuomo by a former junior colleague from another network. Mr. Cuomo denied that allegation.

In an industry known for his on-air talent, Mr. Zucker is perhaps the most recognizable figure among behind-the-scenes executives. He became a public face of CNN in large part because of his public sparring with former President Donald J. Trump, with whom he once shared a friendlier relationship: As chairman of NBC Entertainment, Mr. Zucker had made the decision to grant Mr. Trump reality TV stardom with “The Apprentice.”

Zucker’s news on Wednesday was featured at the top of Fox News’ homepage, with a headline saying he’s “resigning in disgrace.” The accompanying article said that Mr. Zucker had “personally allowed” CNN to “drift from a factually fair news operation into a hyperpartisan opinion platform.”

Mr. Trump issued a statement echoing this, saying that Mr. Zucker was “fired for many reasons, but primarily because CNN strayed from viewers and everyone else.”

Mr. Zucker became CEO of NBCUniversal in 2007 before leaving the company in 2010. He started at CNN in January 2013. In recent months, Mr. Zucker has been heavily involved in the development of CNN+, a service subscription streaming which is expected to begin this spring.

“Together we’ve had an amazing nine years,” Zucker wrote in his memo on Wednesday. “I certainly wish my time here had ended differently. But it was an amazing race. And I loved every minute of it.

Katie Robertson contributed report.

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