CNN saga: How much cash did ousted boss Jeff Zucker get to leave network?

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The amount of cash recently ousted CNN boss Jeff Zucker took home when he was forced to resign last month is becoming clearer.

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday cited “people familiar with the situation” to report that Zucker agreed to a payment of “over $5 million, compensation he was owed from his 2021 bonus” before shocking CNN staffers by stepping down. 

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Jeff Zucker was forced out as CNN President last month. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

Jeff Zucker was forced out as CNN President last month. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

The WSJ report came one day after Deadline reported Zucker would receive “a one-time payment of around $10 million,” in a story that also cited anonymous sources. 

While the difference between “over $5 million” and “roughly $10 million” leaves some wiggle room, its clear Zucker – who is largely responsible for CNN’s partisan shift — walked away from the network with a significant payout. 

Both outlets indicated Zucker agreed not to sue CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, as part of his exit deal. 

WarnerMedia and Zucker’s legal team haven’t publicly commented. WarnerMedia declined comment and Zucker’s team did not reply to requests for comment by Fox News Digital. 

Zucker’s exit departure was initially chalked up to failing to disclose a consensual, sexual relationship with fellow CNN exec Allison Gollust, but parent company WarnerMedia has since admitted the network’s former boss violated its news standards and practices. WarnerMedia has not explained how Zucker violated CNN’s standards and practices, but it’s noteworthy that violations were found during a third-party probe into CNN’s handling of the “issues” associated with Chris Cuomo and his big brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D.

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Jeff Zucker was showered with praise from CNN’s biggest stars when he was shown the door earlier this month for what was initially chalked up as a consensual relationship with fellow CNN executive Allison Gollust that was never disclosed to the company. (Getty Images)

Jeff Zucker was showered with praise from CNN’s biggest stars when he was shown the door earlier this month for what was initially chalked up as a consensual relationship with fellow CNN executive Allison Gollust that was never disclosed to the company. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Zucker was showered with praise from CNN’s biggest stars, who scolded WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar for the way he handled the situation. Zucker was essentially eulogized on air, with many anchors and reporters praising his leadership. However, a former CNN producer has since suggested that many of CNN’s high-paid stars were actually distraught about Zucker’s forced resignation because he is known to generously compensate the hosts of low-rated programs. 

“Jeff was overpaying talent. That’s the real reason they were upset he was fired,” the ex-producer told Fox News Digital. 

Media veteran Chris Licht, who is currently the executive producer and showrunner for CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” will succeed Zucker. He is expected to join CNN in May following a long-planned merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery. 

Incoming CNN boss Chris Licht co-created MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" and then built "CBS This Morning" before running "The Late Show." (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Incoming CNN boss Chris Licht co-created MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and then built “CBS This Morning” before running “The Late Show.” (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Licht’s version of CNN is expected to pivot back to founder Ted Turner’s just-the-facts approach to news after Zucker pushed the network to the left, loading its lineup with liberal opinion pundits.  In a recent memo to future colleagues, Licht suggested changes are on the horizon. 

“Together, we will double-down on what’s working well and quickly eliminate what’s not,” Licht wrote to his future staff. 

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Based on ratings, the network’s primetime lineup and morning show “New Day” aren’t working. CNN has averaged only 916,000 primetime viewers since Biden took office, compared to 2.4 million for Fox News and 1.4 million for MSNBC, and “New Day” has long struggled for relevancy. 

As the Wall Street Journal noted, Licht helped develop both “Morning Joe” and “CBS This Morning,” so industry insiders “expect him to try to retool CNN’s morning program” because of his experience with the timeslot.

Despite ratings struggles, Anderson Cooper and John Berman are seen as journalists who could stick around if the network truly pivots back to straight news, while Don Lemon and Brianna Keilar have been better known for their editorializing. 

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