June 7, 2023: Chris Licht, the embattled chief executive and chairman of CNN, will be leaving the company, according to an announcement made by David Zaslav, the chief executive of parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, during CNN’s daily editorial call on Wednesday.
Licht’s departure follows a challenging year for CNN, marked by layoffs, record-low ratings, and low employee morale. The decision comes shortly after publishing a scathing 15,000-word profile in The Atlantic, which led Licht to apologize to staff members for his actions and pledge to regain their trust.
Despite his efforts, it became apparent that Licht’s CEO tenure was ending. He has not commented on his departure and did not respond to requests for comment.
Zaslav acknowledged Licht’s difficulties in his role and expressed appreciation for his career while taking responsibility for the outcome. Zaslav stated that the company is conducting an extensive internal and external search for a new network chief, which is expected to take some time.
During the interim period, the leadership team will consist of Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent and content development; Virginia Moseley, executive vice president of editorial; and Eric Sherling, executive vice president of U.S. programming. David Leavy, the recently appointed chief operating officer, will continue to oversee the company’s commercial activities.
Zaslav reassured CNN staff that they are in capable hands and that the company will support the interim leadership team until a new CEO is appointed. The goal is to conduct a thorough and thoughtful search to find the right candidate for the position.
Licht’s tenure at CNN was brief and marked by challenges. Despite his previous success in morning news and late-night television, his leadership at CNN faced criticism. One of his early actions was dismantling CNN+, which had been considered the streaming future of the network. His decision to separate himself from the network’s journalists also created a divide between him and the staff.
Licht faced further criticism for the town hall event featuring former President Donald Trump, which was widely viewed as a mistake. The event drew internal and external backlash, including criticism from prominent anchor Christiane Amanpour during a commencement speech at Columbia Journalism School.
Overall, Licht’s departure comes at the end of a tumultuous chapter for CNN, as the company looks ahead to finding new leadership and addressing its recent challenges.