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CNN president Jeff Zucker resigns after failing to disclose relationship

CNN president Jeff Zucker sent shockwaves through the media industry on Wednesday as he resigned after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a fellow CNN executive.

Jeff Zucker

In a memo to colleagues, Zucker said the consensual relationship had come to light as part of an investigation into CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who was dismissed in December after it emerged he had assisted his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, as the latter navigated a flurry of sexual assault allegations last year.

“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 have worked with for more than 20 years. I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years,” said the memo from Zucker, who has also resigned from his role as chairman of WarnerMedia’s news and sports division.

“I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today.”

While Zucker did not name his colleague, the relationship was with CNN’s executive VP and chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust.

Gollust, who will remain at the company, later released a statement of her own, saying: “Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years. Recently, our relationship changed during Covid. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time. I’m incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do everyday.”

Zucker’s sudden departure comes during a pivotal year for WarnerMedia, as the company gears up to merge with Discovery as part of a US$43bn merger, expected to close at some point in Q2.

In addition, the news network has plans to roll out a streaming service, CNN+, in the spring. The streamer has been commissioning a slate of original projects in recent months, including a recently announced cooking show fronted by American chef Alison Roman. Zucker has been heavily involved in the creation of the streamer, and his absence raises question marks over how CNN will proceed without their top executive to oversee the service’s launch.

In the interim, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar has appointed three executives – Michael Bass (executive VP of programming, CNN US), Amy Entelis (executive VP, CNN Worldwide) and Ken Jautz (executive VP, CNN US) – to steer CNN until the company completes its merger with Discovery. The trio will serve as interim co-heads, effective immediately.

Zucker is widely considered to be one of the most influential people in American media, and regularly made headlines himself over the past six years as a vocal critic of former US president Donald Trump, who was consistently critical of the news network. In 2018, CNN successfully sued the White House after it attempted to suspend the press pass of the news network’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Zucker joined CNN in January 2013 after previously serving as head of NBCUniversal, where he spent 25 years.


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