By Helen Coster
(Reuters) -CNN Chairman and Chief Executive Chris Licht has stepped down from the media company, effective immediately, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery said on Wednesday.
The company said that as it seeks Licht's replacement, it has put in place an interim leadership team including Amy Entelis, EVP of talent and content development; Virginia Moseley, EVP of editorial; and Eric Sherling, EVP of US programming, as well as David Leavy, chief operating officer, on the commercial side.
The move comes less than a week after the Atlantic magazine published a critical report about Licht.
In an email to staff Wednesday, Warner Bros. Discovery President and Chief Executive David Zaslav wrote that the company will be conducting a wide search, internally and externally, for a new leader.
“This job was never going to be easy, especially at a time of great disruption and transformation, and Chris poured his heart and soul into it," Zaslav wrote.
He added: "Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we had hoped – and ultimately that’s on me.”
Licht, who most recently served as EVP of special programming at CBS and executive producer and showrunner for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” assumed his role in May 2022, replacing Jeff Zucker, who was forced to resign after failing to disclose a consensual relationship with a colleague.
Among other criticism, Licht has taken heat for the network's decision to broadcast a May 10 town hall with former Republican President Donald Trump, during which Trump repeated falsehoods about his 2020 election loss, said that if elected he would pardon many supporters convicted of taking part in a Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, and called CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins a "nasty person."
CNN's ratings have been sagging, even as the company attempts to get more Republican viewers. Its profit fell beneath $1 billion in 2022 and is expected to be modestly higher this year than last, at $938.6 million, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Those estimates are for the CNN networks that operate in the United States, including CNN en Español and CNN International.
(Reporting by Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Nick Zieminski)