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Former New York Times, BCC Executive Mark Thompson Named New CEO of CNN

'What I can say is that where others see threat, I see opportunity'

Former New York Times, BCC Executive Mark Thompson Named New CEO of CNN

The former chief executive officer of The New York Times and the BBC has been selected as CNN's next leader.

Mark Thompson will take over as the news network’s new chair and CEO on Oct. 9. CNN has been led by a four-person team since Chris Licht was fired in June. 

“I am confident he is exactly the leader we need to take the helm of CNN at this pivotal time,” said David Zaslav, the CEO of CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, in a message to staff members, per CNBC. “Big thanks to all of you for your patience, commitment, and hard work. Simply stated: the real strength of CNN is its people, and you continue to set the highest standard in all that you do.”

Thompson was the director-general of the BBC from 2004 to 2012, where he has been credited with studying the publication after a series of scandals involving the outlet's coverage of Britain’s intelligence about Iraq’s weapons programs before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. 

He served as CEO of the Times from 2012 to 2020, where he “helped turn the outlet into a digital success story thanks to a successful paywall strategy which has helped it attract more than 5 million paying subscribers and hire hundreds of journalists at a time when much of the rest of the industry has faced deep cuts,” per The Guardian.

“We face pressure from every direction — structural, political, cultural, you name it,” Thompson said in his message to CNN’s staff, per AP News. “Like many other media organizations, CNN has recently felt some of the uncertainty and heartache that comes with all of that. There’s no magic wand I or anyone else can wield to make this disruption go away. But what I can say is that where others see threat, I see opportunity.”

CNN has gone through multiple changes in leadership during the last year.

Former CEO Jeff Zucker resigned at the beginning of 2022 after it was revealed that he failed to disclose an affair with CNN’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust. The relationship was discovered during an investigation into former anchor Chris Cuomo. 

“I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years,” Zucker said in an email to staff. “I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today.” 

Licht took over after Zucker’s departure, and his time at the helm was marked by turbulence. Licht aimed to move CNN from its left-leaning political position in favor of more moderate reporting to expand the network’s audience.  

He also rolled out a new morning program co-anchored by Don Lemon, who was fired in April after Variety published an article detailing allegations that he had mistreated female colleagues,” reports NBC News. “Licht drew intense scrutiny in recent months as CNN prime-time ratings dipped and the new morning show flailed.”

Licht also drew scrutiny for permitting CNN to host President Donald Trump in a televised town hall in May. 

“I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally,” said David Zaslav, the parent company’s president and CEO, in a press release. “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.”

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