CNN Appoints Former BBC and New York Times Executive Mark Thompson as Chief Executive and Chairman

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Thompson, the former chief executive of the BBC and The New York Times, will be the next leader of CNN, the network announced Wednesday, taking the reins of the renowned US news organisation at one of the most pivotal times in its 43-year history.

Former chief executive of The New York Times and director-general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, has been appointed to lead CNN following a series of crises and falling ratings at the US news network.

Thompson was appointed as chair and CEO of CNN by David Zaslav, chief executive of the network’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, which made the announcement Wednesday.

“There isn’t a more experienced, respected, or capable executive in the news business today than Mark, and we are thrilled to have him join our team and lead CNN Worldwide into the future,” Zaslav said in a statement.

He described Thompson as “a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this pivotal time,” adding: “Mark is a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organisations.”

Thompson, who will officially start on October 9 as chief executive and chairman, and act as CNN’s editor-in-chief, said in a statement he “couldn’t be more excited about the chance to join CNN after years of watching it and competing against it with a mixture of admiration and envy.”

“The world needs accurate trustworthy news now more than ever and we’ve never had more ways of meeting that need at home and abroad,” he said. “Where others see disruption, I see opportunity. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get down to work with my new colleagues to build a successful future for CNN.”

Thompson, a seasoned media executive widely credited with rescuing The New York Times during a turbulent period in the newspaper’s history, replaces Chris Licht, who was fired in June after struggling to stabilise CNN in his 13 months as chairman and CEO. He will also replace a four-person interim leadership team that had been running CNN.

The network has also been through the firings of star anchors Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon over the past two years, and the closure of streaming service CNN+ after just one month.

CNN’s previous boss Jeff Zucker had been forced to resign last February after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a senior executive.

Thompson, who has been knighted by the British government, must also guide CNN during the 2024 US presidential election.

That challenge will coincide with coverage of criminal charges against former President Donald Trump.

CNN has had a famously tempestuous relationship with Trump, who unsuccessfully tried to sue the network for defamation, claiming it had created a “false and incendiary association” between him and Adolf Hitler following the last election.

Thompson was director general of the BBC from 2004 to 2012, and is credited with reviving the fortunes of The New York Times by boosting digital subscriptions as president and CEO from 2012 to 2020.