There are rumors at CNN that Chris Licht, who took over as chairman less than a year ago, may be leaving before Labor Day.
Some insiders believe that Licht might stick around, but only because it would be embarrassing for CNN’s corporate boss, David Zaslav, to admit that putting Licht in charge was a mistake.
Although Licht has shown his talent as a leader of shows like “The Late Show,” “Morning Joe,” and “CBS This Morning,” he has no experience as the head of an entire network. He took over from Jeff Zucker, who had to step down due to a sex scandal.
Since taking over, Licht has made significant changes at CNN. He has let go of well-known names like Brian Stelter and Jeffrey Toobin, overseen major layoffs, moved Don Lemon from his primetime show to the morning show, and shut down CNN+ just one month after its launch. Despite these changes, CNN’s ratings have continued to decline, although they were already heading downwards under Zucker.
“CNN This Morning,” which should be one of Licht’s areas of expertise as a breakfast time guru at CBS and MSNBC, has experienced on-set confrontations between anchors and a scandal after Lemon suggested that presidential hopeful Nicki Haley is “past her prime.” Licht publicly criticized Lemon for the gaffe.
According to some network insiders, Licht is scarcely familiar with the network or its staff. He is often seen with an entourage and doesn’t stop to talk with regular employees. It’s been said that he’s scared of them.
There’s frustration that Licht seems to look back to struggling CBS for his inspiration. He’s picked up executives and on-air talent from CBS, and he’s in talks to put Gayle King in a prime time rotation, even though she hasn’t delivered the numbers to match her hefty price tag.
Despite these criticisms, a CNN spokesperson denies the rumors that Licht is leaving soon. A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns CNN, said that Zaslav is fully supportive of Licht and that they will get it right, even if it takes years.