(The Hill) — Mark Thompson, a veteran of the television and print news business who most recently ran the New York Times Company, has been selected to serve as the new CEO of CNN Worldwide.
Thompson’s name had been one of the candidates listed in multiple media reports suggesting leaders at Warner Bros. Discover, the media conglomerate that owns CNN, were close to naming its new permanent news chief.
He also served as director general of the BBC from 2004 to 2012 before joining the New York Times Company where he presided over the newspaper’s business as CEO, a position he held until 2020.
“I want to say that I recognize change isn’t easy and I know you’ve been through a lot of it,” David Zaslav, the chief executive of WarnerBros. Discovery wrote in a memo to CNN staff obtained by The Hill on Tuesday, saying he was confident Thompson is “exactly the leader we need to take the helm of CNN at this pivotal time.”
Thompson steps in for former CNN president Chris Licht, who Zaslav fired this summer after serving just over a year in the high-profile media job.
Licht’s tenure at the company was filled with controversy after a string of editorial and programming decisions angered staffers loyal to previous leadership and a wide-ranging profile in The Atlantic published days before his ouster that painted him as largely in over his head and lacking the support of top CNN talent.
He took major flak inside and outside the network weeks earlier over his decision to host a live town hall event with former President Donald Trump, which Trump used to ridicule his political enemies and mock moderator Kaitlan Collins in front of a live audience.
Thompson enters a cable news landscape that has seen its partisan divide widen and has come under severe financial pressure as a result of cord-cutting and an increasingly stingy advertising market.
Ratings across cable news are meanwhile down from the boom experienced by most channels during Trump’s time in The White House, but at CNN most acutely.
The network parted ways with several of its household name anchors in recent months including prime-time hosts Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon and others.
In the months after Licht was ousted, CNN had been run by a so-called “quad” of executives including Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent and content development, Virginia Moseley, executive vice president of editorial, and Eric Sherling, executive vice president of U.S. programming, as well as David Leavy, chief operating officer.
Zaslav said he was planning on the four serving as “a big help” to Thompson, once he takes over on Oct. 9.