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Licht’s Out

Chris Licht
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
June 7, 2023

Chris Licht, the embattled and besieged C.E.O. of CNN, was never the most obvious candidate to helm a global news organization. Sixteen months ago, when I broke the news that David Zaslav had tapped Licht to run the network, I noted that he didn’t seem tailor-made for the job. Licht had a reputation as a wunderkind producer who could work with elite talent, yes, and he was aligned with John Malone’s rich older guy Big Sky vision of recalibrating the network’s politics to its centrist origins. But Licht’s C.V. consisted of programming a few hours of morning or late-night talk television with one or two or three principals, not the management or operational experience that might prepare him for overseeing a 24-hour, multi-billion-dollar, 4,000-person cable network in need of strong strategic leadership, not to mention new business and distribution models.

Now, after a year of leadership missteps, programming misfires, a disastrous Trump town hall and the near-total decimation of staff morale in the wake of a chilling all-access Atlantic story, Licht will be vacating the C.E.O. position. I’m told that Warner Bros. Discovery will soon announce that Licht will be stepping down as chairman and C.E.O. of CNN, ostensibly bringing an end to one of the most turbulent periods in the network’s 43-year history.