Embattled CNN boss Jeff Zucker walked away from the liberal network on Wednesday after failing to disclose a “consensual relationship” with a CNN staffer.
“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,” Zucker wrote in a memo to staffers shared by CNN’s Brian Stelter.
“I came to CNN on January 28, 2013. Together, we had nine great years. I certainly wish my tenure here had ended differently. But it was an amazing run. And I loved every minute,” Zucker continued. “I am grateful to the thousands of incredibly talented CNN and Turner Sports employees who helped make this such a joy for me, and such a success for all of us. I wish each of you nothing but the best in the years ahead.”
Stelter noted CNN staffers were “stunned” by the sudden resignation.
Under Zucker, CNN has recently been plagued by scandals, embarrassing headlines and struggles to attract an audience, leading critics to wonder if he would be shown the door once a planned merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery is finalized later this year. However, the sudden resignation before the potential deal was finalized sent shock waves across the media industry.
Zucker’s relationship was with CNN marketing chief Allison Gollust, who the now-former CNN boss has long been speculated to have a relationship with. Gollust will remain at CNN, according to Stelter.
Gollust was appointed as former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s communications director in 2012 before joining Zucker at CNN four months later. She became close to Zucker during a 15-year tenure at NBC before joining Cuomo administration and was once even floated as a candidate to eventually replace Zucker atop the liberal network.
Industry insiders have long considered Zucker’s relationship with Gollust to be an open secret and they were recently spotted together attending a concert at Madison Square Garden.
“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,” Gollust said in a statement.
Zucker’s future atop the liberal network has been under a microscope for over a year.
In February 2021, Zucker reportedly told CNN staffers he would continue to oversee the liberal network for the remainder of the year but expected to “move on” when his contract expired at the end of 2021.
Many insiders quickly dismissed the speculation that Zucker would actually walk away from CNN. “He ain’t leaving,” a CNN employee casually told Fox News Digital at the time.
Months later, WarnerMedia’s looming merger with Discovery was announced and Zucker’s longtime pal, Discovery CEO David Zaslav, was chosen to run the combined venture while WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who Zucker was believed to be unhappy reporting to, would leave the company.
Zucker and Zaslav run in the same prestigious social circle and reportedly have getaway estates in the posh Hamptons area of New York that are only 10 minutes apart from each other. By September, former CNN reporter Dylan Byers quoted three network sources who said Zucker would stay on the job at least through the completion of the merger with Discovery.
Instead, Zucker left CNN on Wednesday before the merger became finalized.
Kilar accepted Zucker’s resignation.
“I have accepted Jeff Zucker’s resignation as Chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports, and President of CNN Worldwide. We thank Jeff for his contributions over the past 9 years,” Kilar said in a statement.
CNN executives Michael Bass, Amy Entelis, and Ken Jautz will lead the network on an interim basis.