Chris Licht, the embattled CEO of CNN who took a wrecking ball to many of the network's leftist anchors as part of an image rehabilitation, is out of a job after just 13 months, Puck News first reported.
His tenure at the network was marked with controversy, including the shuttering of the network's failed CNN+ streaming platform at the request of CNN's new owners who were unsure about a standalone digital product, a move which resulted in scores of layoffs. The network's financial picture has also been worsening - generating just $750 million in profit last year, including one-time losses from CNN+, down from $1.25 billion the year before.
As Axios notes, "Licht’s leadership became untenable following a damning profile about him published by The Atlantic last week."
Meanwhile, one day before the Atlantic story was published, longtime confidant of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, David Leavy, was named Chief Operating Officer of CNN.
According to The Atlantic, the Town Hall with former President Donald Trump was the last straw;
When he took the helm of CNN, in May 2022, Licht had promised a reset with Republican voters—and with their leader. He had swaggered into the job, telling his employees that the network had lost its way under former President Jeff Zucker; that their hostile approach to Trump had alienated a broader viewership that craved sober, fact-driven coverage. These assertions thrust Licht into a two-front war: fighting to win back Republicans who had written off the network, while also fighting to win over his own journalists, many of whom believed their new boss was scapegoating them to appease his new boss, David Zaslav, who’d hired Licht with a decree to move CNN toward the ideological center.
One year into the job, Licht was losing both battles. Ratings, in decline since Trump left office, had dropped to new lows. Employee morale was even worse. A feeling of dread saturated the company. Licht had accepted the position with ambitions to rehabilitate the entire news industry, telling his peers that Trump had broken the mainstream media and that his goal was to do nothing less than “save journalism.” But Licht had lost the confidence of his own newsroom. Because of this, he had come to view the prime-time event with Trump as the moment that would vindicate his pursuit of Republican viewers while proving to his employees that he possessed a revolutionary vision for their network and the broader news media.
Trump had other ideas.
For 70 minutes in Manchester, the former president overpowered CNN’s moderator, Kaitlan Collins, with a continuous blast of distortion, hyperbole, and lies. The audience of Trump devotees delighted in his aggression toward Collins, cheering him on so loudly and so purposefully that what began as a journalistic forum devolved into a WWE match before the first voter asked a question.
In March, FTVLive suggested that Licht didn't have long at the network - with one insider telling the outlet that he "doesn't have his ear to the ground." A spokesperson for the network refuted the report, saying that Licht and Saslav aren't on the same page.
Guess that denial was fake news and it's back to business as usual?