CNN president Jeff Zucker resigns after failing to disclose ‘consensual relationship’ with colleague
CNN president Jeff Zucker resigned Wednesday, effective immediately, the network said.
The network cited a memo Zucker sent out that reportedly read, "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. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn't. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today."
FOX Television Stations has not obtained the memo.
CNN reported the relationship was with CNN’s chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust. CNN said Gollust acknowledged the relationship in a memo of her own and that she will remain with the company.
Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia, told employees in a memo that an interim leadership plan would be announced shortly.
Cuomo, CNN's prime-time host, was fired late last year after it was discovered he aided his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in responding to sexual harassment charges, according to emails and a transcript of his testimony to investigators working for state Attorney General Letitia James. Her office found Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women; the former governor resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial.
Chris Cuomo's lawyer, Bryan Freedman, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Cuomo is reportedly seeking a settlement following his firing, and speculation that Zucker and Gollust's relationship might come up in those talks was raised when Radaronline.com wrote a story about the two last month.
Zucker’s abrupt resignation came after nine years at the media company. In a statement obtained by the Associated Press, Zucker said he had wished that his tenure had ended differently but, "it was an amazing run. And I loved every minute."
Zucker, 56, was named Chairman, WarnerMedia News and Sports in March, 2019. He has also served as President of CNN Worldwide since 2013.
He oversees all of WarnerMedia’s live programming, including all divisions of CNN Worldwide and Turner Sports. At CNN, that includes the US television network, CNN International, HLN, and CNN’s digital properties. His sports portfolio includes Turner Sports, and Bleacher Report.
He has been an industry leader since he was executive producer of the "Today" show in the 1990s. In the following decade, he ran NBC's entertainment division, where he was instrumental in putting Donald Trump on the reality show "The Apprentice."
The news was met with shock within CNN, where Zucker was well liked and known for running a tight ship. His top aides were Gollust and Michael Bass, another NBC News veteran.
"Both of these organizations are at the top of their respective games and are prepared for the next chapter," Kilar said in the memo to CNN staff.
Zucker was overseeing the expected launch this spring of CNN+, a new streaming service.
RELATED: Chris Wallace announces departure from FOX News, joining CNN
Experts said Zucker’s resignation might affect the upcoming CNN+ streaming service, which has been making an aggressive effort to recruit big media names like Fox News’ Chris Wallace and NPR’s Audie Cornish. That service is expected to launch in March.
"The timing of this departure is probably about as ill-timed as you can get," for CNN+, said Tim Hanlon, CEO of media consultancy The Vertere Group. "CNN is making up for a lot of lost time with the arrival of their streaming service … The vision of CNN+ is very much in question. It has Jeff Zucker’s hallmarks all over it."
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.