By DAVID BAUDER
NEW YORK (AP) — CNN President Jeff Zucker abruptly resigned Wednesday after acknowledging a consensual relationship with another network executive, ending a nine-year tenure at the helm of the one of the nation’s largest media companies.
Zucker said he acknowledged the relationship when asked about it as part of an investigation into Chris Cuomo, the former CNN anchor who was fired after it was discovered that he aided his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as he navigated a sexual harassment investigation.
“I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t,” Zucker wrote in a memo. “I was wrong.”
Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia, told employees in a memo that an interim leadership plan would be announced shortly.
Zucker, 56, has been an industry leader since he was executive producer of the “Today” show in the 1990s. In the following decade, he ran NBC’s entertainment division, where he was instrumental in putting Donald Trump on the reality show “The Apprentice.”
He rose to become chief of NBC Universal and left in 2010 when Comcast took over.
In a statement Zucker said he wished that his tenure at CNN had ended differently but, “it was an amazing run. And I loved every minute.”
Allison Gollust, CNN’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, acknowledged the relationship in a memo of her own.
“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. I’m incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do everyday,” she said.
Prior to joining CNN, Gollust served as communications director for Andrew Cuomo, according to a biography posted on the CNN website. Like Zucker, she worked at NBC News prior to that.
Chris Cuomo actively helped craft his his brother’s responses to sexual harassment charges, according to emails and a transcript of his testimony to investigators working for state Attorney General Letitia James. Her office found that Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women; the former governor resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial.
Chris Cuomo’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Cuomo is reportedly seeking a settlement following his firing, and speculation that Zucker and Gollust’s relationship might come up in those talks was raised when Radaronline.com wrote a story about the two last month.
The news was met with shock within CNN, where Zucker was well liked and known for running a tight ship. His top aides were Gollust and Michael Bass, another NBC News veteran.
Zucker was named chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports in March 2019. He has also served as president of CNN Worldwide since 2013.
Zucker oversaw all of WarnerMedia’s live programming, including all divisions of CNN Worldwide and Turner Sports. At CNN, that includes the US television network, CNN International, HLN, and CNN’s digital properties. His sports portfolio includes Turner Sports, and Bleacher Report.
“Both of these organizations are at the top of their respective games and are prepared for the next chapter,” Kilar said in the memo to CNN staff.
Zucker was overseeing the expected launch this spring of CNN+, a new streaming service.