Jeff Zucker’s Offer to Delay His CNN Exit Was Rejected by WarnerMedia Bosses

Network president forced out immediately despite offer to stay on through launch of CNN+ or merger with Discovery

Jeff Zucker (Getty Images)
Jeff Zucker (Getty Images)

Jeff Zucker resigned Wednesday as president of CNN, launching a day’s worth of followup headlines as details emerged. One of those details, reported by CNN itself, is that Zucker didn’t want to make such a sudden departure — but was facing a firing by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar and AT&T boss John Stankey if he didn’t.

“Zucker spoke with some of CNN’s top executives on Wednesday morning, shortly before he announced his departure. He indicated that he would have liked to stay on for a short period, to help with a smooth transition, but WarnerMedia wanted otherwise,” revealed CNN’s reporting on its boss’s departure. “According to two people involved in the matter, Zucker was facing termination if he did not resign.”

The “smooth transition” refers to the upcoming merger between CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, and Discovery. According to Puck News, discussion of Zucker’s relationship with a top executive, Allison Gollust, took place in the higher ranks of the companies within the last week. Kilar, which whom Zucker has famously had a frosty relationship, took the information to Stankey and the decision was made to force Zucker out quickly to preserve the integrity of the deal.

Zucker will not get to continue working on the launch of CNN+ the streaming service that CNN has been promoting heavily, hiring anchors from competing networks for and preparing to launch in the spring.

Media insiders say this could be the work of Chris Cuomo, the ousted CNN anchor, who Zucker publicly confirmed would not receive severance after he was terminated for helping his brother, then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, craft a strategic response to sexual harassment accusations against him.