CNN Names Mark Thompson New Chairman and CEO

CNN has a new chief executive to replace the short-tenured Chris Licht, as Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday that former New York Times and BBC boss Mark Thompson will take over as chairman and CEO of CNN.

Thompson, rumored for several days to be the top choice for the job, will report directly to WBD CEO David Zaslav, effective immediately. Thompson now assumes the unenviable job of righting things at the network after the tumultuous tenure of his predecessor, who was fired in early June.

“There isn’t a more experienced, respected or capable executive in the news business today than Mark, and we are thrilled to have him join our team and lead CNN Worldwide into the future,” Zaslav said in a statement from WBD. “Mark is a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organizations. His strategic vision, track record in transformational leadership and sheer passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this pivotal time.”

Thompson’s tenure at the New York Times was defined by his efforts to move the newspaper toward digital products, spurring the storied newspaper to become a legitimate mobile and online competitor. He left in 2020 after eight years.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the chance to join CNN after years of watching it and competing against it with a mixture of admiration and envy,” Thompson said. “The world needs accurate trustworthy news now more than ever and we’ve never had more ways of meeting that need at home and abroad. Where others see disruption, I see opportunity. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get down to work with my new colleagues to build a successful future for CNN.”

Amid declining ratings and credibility, Licht was hired in May 2022 with a mandate to turn things around. But CNN continued to flounder until May 2023, when the network hosted a town hall with former president Donald Trump that outraged and alienated viewers, received widespread external criticism and internal disaffection, and precipitated a ratings crater.

Licht’s undoing came a month later, after a devastating profile in The Atlantic that, among other things, revealed he had stacked the Trump Town Hall with the former president’s supporters.

Now Thompson will be tasked with rebuilding audience trust — and viewership — at the world’s first 24/7 news network. A major task — and test — will be to oversee the creation of a just-announced streaming news service that will run on WBD’s Max.

That’s where his prior experience will likely come in handy. Thompson started at the BBC in 1979 as a production trainee, eventually rising to director-general. He left in 2012 to become president and CEO of the Times, where he was part of the transition from a print-first advertising-focused structure to a digital-first subscription model.

CNN’s interim leadership team of Amy Entelis, David Leavy, Virginia Moseley, and Eric Sherling will continue in their functional roles, reporting to Thompson.

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