CNN president Jeff Zucker will leave the news organization at the end of 2021 after almost a decade in charge, it was reported Thursday.
The long-time boss, 55, told staff: ‘I’m going to stay and finish my current contract, which, as I said, will keep me here until the end of this year.
‘At that point, I do expect to move on.’
He added: ‘The truth is, back in November and December I had basically decided that it was time to move on.’
His decision, first reported by The New York Times, comes amid rumors of a rift with his new boss, CEO of parent company WarnerMedia Jason Kilar over the direction of the network in the wake of the end of the Trump presidency.
CNN president Jeff Zucker will leave the news organization at the end of 2021
His decision comes amid rumors of a rift with his new boss, CEO of parent company WarnerMedia Jason Kilar, right, and the end of the Trump presidency
Zucker had initially courted the former president, telling his disgraced attorney Michael Cohen in March 2016 that he could offer Trump a weekly show on CNN.
But he later turned on the Republican and thought he had given too much exposure to his campaign events with the network’s left leaning coverage leading to calls of ‘fake news’ from Trump and his supporters.
Kilar had already stripped him of his role in overseeing human resources and the public relations team.
Despite that, the new chief exec had said in December that ‘the two best things that ever happened to CNN were Ted Turner and Jeff Zucker’.
Zucker started his career as a researcher for the 1988 Olympics for NBC before becoming executive producer of the Today show aged just 26.
He then became president of NBC Entertainment; it was Zucker who in 2004 aired The Apprentice, making Trump a household name.
After replacing and then reinstating Jay Leno, Zucker lost his job with the network and he joined CNN in 2013.
Since then it has enjoyed high ratings, hitting a 40-year network record in November and beating competitors with their coverage of the Capitol siege.
It was Zucker who in 2004 aired The Apprentice, making Trump a household name
Zucker’s decision to leave now raises questions over the direction of the left leaning network post Donald Trump.
In a New York Times column last September, media columnist Ben Smith wrote that Zucker didn’t realize what a ratings success Trump would be when he first announced his bid for president.
He initially dismissed Trump as a ‘sideshow’ but then changed his tune and spent the lead up to the election saturating CNN with Trump coverage.
Zucker was caught on tape telling Trump’s disgraced attorney Michael Cohen in March 2016 that he could offer Trump a weekly show on CNN.
The exchange between Zucker and Cohen took place just hours before the GOP primary debate on March 10 that CNN was hosting.
In the leaked audio, which was obtained by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Zucker told Cohen that ‘you cannot be elected president of the United States without CNN’.
‘You guys have had great instincts, great guts and great understanding of everything,’ Zucker told Cohen. ‘But you’re missing the boat on how it works going forward.’
Zucker would later express worry about corresponding with Cohen by email, adding that he couldn’t risk the possible chance that Trump would mention the nature of the conversation at a rally.
‘I’m very conscious of not putting too much in email, as you’re a lawyer, as you understand,’ Zucker said.
‘And, you know, as fond as I am of the boss, he also has a tendency, like, you know, if I call him or I email him, he then is capable of going out at his next rally and saying that we just talked and I can’t have that, if you know what I’m saying.’
‘It’s not that I don’t want to talk to (Trump) every day. I’ve just got to be careful, because, I’ve just got to be careful … I just don’t want him talking about it on the campaign trail … But you know what? I’m going to give him a call right now and I’m going wish him luck in the debate tonight.’
Zucker joined CNN in 2013. Since then the network has enjoyed high ratings, hitting a 40-year network record in November. He is pictured with host Anderson Cooper
Zucker later said he had given too much exposure to his campaign events.
And he was heard in calls referring to Rudy Giuliani as a ‘useful idiot’ and calling Trump ‘s legal team ‘crazy’ during a staff meeting.
The former president repeatedly called the network ‘fake news’ and it was accused of harboring a liberal and anti-Trump bias.
Sources have said CNN’s later coverage of Trump was Zucker’s attempt to kill his ‘runaway monster’.
Zucker said: ‘We gave the anchors, reporters and producers of our shows the freedom to tell the truth, even if the truth came off as tough sometimes.’
CNN anchor Jake Tapper said: ‘He’s the best boss I ever had, and it’s not even close. I’m grateful that we get him for another year.’
Zucker is understood to still lead the daily editorial calls himself.