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The Zucker Savior Myth

jeff zucker
The endurance of the “Will Jeff buy CNN?” rumor—despite the fact that the asset isn’t for sale, at least not yet—highlights a few broader themes about the uncertain state of the media industry today, and a few enduring truths about Zucker, as well. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
May 10, 2024

Jeff Zucker was being a bit provocative this week, onstage at the Wall Street Journal C.E.O. Council Summit, when he said he’s heard from people who think he should “come back in and buy CNN.” Zucker is no doubt keenly aware of the rumor—or the in-crowd cocktail party fantasy, really—that has persisted in the years since his abrupt defenestration from Hudson Yards: that one day, he might swoop in as the public face of an investment group and buy the cable news network from Warner Bros. Discovery. For the critics who thought he’d polarized and poop cruise-ified Ted Turner’s pioneering news network, such a return would be an unwelcome scenario. But for the many, many loyal employees who were so memorably traumatized by his termination, it would be akin to the Second Coming, and I’m barely being hyperbolic. “I know that, for a lot of people,” Zucker teased, “this is how the movie ends.”

Zucker, now a media investor and C.E.O. of RedBird IMI, managed to fuel the speculation while ostensibly extinguishing it. “It’s not something that we’ve contemplated at this point,” he told the Journal’s Jessica Toonkel. “It’s not something that we’ve ever looked at, in any formal way, in any manner.” Moreover, he continued, “CNN is not for sale, as far I know.” But, he added, “like anything else in the news and information space, if it became available, if it were for sale, of course we would look at it.” Of course