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The Zaz-Roberts Proxy War

david zaslav
Zaslav’s cost-cutting mission has enacted controversial strategic changes that have pushed people out of work, pissed off the creative community, and sapped storied brands like HBO and CNN of their esprit de corps. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair
Dylan Byers
May 1, 2024

On a recent Friday night in April, David and Pam Zaslav were on a double date at Porter House with private equity billionaire David Rubenstein and Caryn Zucker, his partner and the ex-wife of the former CNN president. The dimly lit (and slightly tacky) wood-paneled steakhouse in the old Time Warner Building, just off Columbus Circle, is one of the very few culinary theaters frequented by the Manhattan media gentry, so it was not altogether surprising when Zaz looked up and spotted ex-CNN anchor Don Lemon, who was dining with his new spouse, Tim Malone, and another guest.

One year earlier, of course, Lemon had been very inelegantly defenestrated from CNN, ostensibly because of some controversial on-air remarks, but more accurately because of his then-boss Chris Licht’s inability to manage him. Also, Zaz and his mentor John Malone had grown frustrated with Lemon’s outspoken and polarizing personal brand. The ouster effectively ended Zaz and Lemon’s friendship, such as it was. Since then, the two men had met just once, for breakfast at Barney Greengrass, and exchanged bland pleasantries during run-ins at the Polo Bar and in the Hamptons.