Warner Bros. Company named former New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson as CNN’s new chairman and CEO, succeeding Chris Licht as head of the cable news outlet.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO, David Zaslav told CNN employees in a staff memo on Wednesday, August 30 that Thompson — who helped revitalize the Times’ finances by growing the paper’s digital subscriber base as chief executive from 2012 to 2020 — will take the helm at CNN beginning Oct. 9.
Thompson is coming onboard after Licht left the network in June following a tough13-month stint at the helm that included declining ratings, the ouster of longtime anchor Don Lemon and an expose in The Atlantic magazine that portrayed Licht as a paranoid manager who was obsessed with his ousted predecessor, Jeff Zucker.
“Mark has been in the news business for more than four decades and, as many of you are aware, he has an exceptional track record of innovation and excellence,” Zaslav wrote in the memo. “I am confident he is exactly the leader we need to take the helm of CNN at this pivotal time.”
Since Licht’s exit, CNN has been run on an interim basis by executives including talent chief Amy Entelis, head of news-gathering Virginia Moseley, programming head Eric Sherling, and head of commercial David Leavy.
Thompson, 66, has collaborated with Zaslav in years past. Before running The New York Times, Thompson was managing the BBC as its director general.
Under Thompson, the Times introduced NYT Cooking, a subscription-based recipe service. Thompson also oversaw the Times’ acquisition of Wirecutter and the launch of The Daily, the popular news-based podcast.
Since leaving the Times, Thompson has served on the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he served as a co-chair of the International Fund for Public Interest Media.
Thompson started his journalism career in 1979 when he was hired by the BBC as a production trainee. He eventually rose to become showrunner for prestigious newsmagazines such as “Newsnight” and “Panorama.”