Congrats to Jeff Zucker, who managed to attend the Super Bowl with his son last weekend in L.A. and go largely unnoticed by the media tracking his every move these days. A few people have asked if I think the former CNN president might sue to clear his name after WarnerMedia C.E.O. Jason Kilar announced Wednesday (without factual details, of course) that Zucker—along with his partner and ousted marketing chief Allison Gollust, and fired anchor Chris Cuomo—violated “company policies, including CNN’s News Standards and Practices.”
Those are fighting words, given that Zucker had become a martyr to his CNN staff after exiting over what was supposedly just an employee romance that everyone seemed to know (and not care) about. Zucker has been represented in the CNN split by the tenacious L.A. litigators Patty Glaser and Kerry Garvis Wright at the Glaser Weil law firm, as well as his usual deal lawyer Craig Jacobson. (Glaser, ironically, repped Conan O’Brien in his NBC exit after Zucker put in motion the infamous Leno-O’Brien Tonight Show succession plan when running NBC Universal.) And while Team Zucker isn’t talking, I doubt he will poke the WarnerMedia bear, given his desire to move on and find a new gig. He’s especially eager for potential opportunities in the sports world, I’m told.
Gollust, who has her own employment lawyers in New York, might be the more likely litigant, since she used the loaded phrase “retaliate against me” in her statement describing Kilar’s handling of the situation. And, of course, the most likely to sue or arbitrate would be Cuomo, who still wants the $18 million on his contract, despite the new revelation in the Times about his sexual assault accuser and the segment he is said to have aired on CNN to placate her. (Cuomo denies the allegations.)
I still think AT&T’s John Stankey will pay him something to go away, despite the uproar it would cause at CNN and elsewhere, just to avoid noise around the closing of the $43 billion spinoff to Discovery. But if the problem is passed to incoming C.E.O David Zaslav, I think he’ll be much less likely to settle.