Jeff Zucker Says His Company Would Consider Buying CNN – Former CNN executive Jeff Zucker, who faced a scandal and was removed from his position, mentioned that his new investment company, RedBird IMI, might consider making a bid for CNN if Warner Bros. This statement aligns with previous reports that suggested Zucker’s interest in CNN after his departure from the network due to a disclosed romantic involvement with a senior colleague.
In June, The Post referred to insights from industry insiders who anticipated that Zucker might launch a CNN bid as soon as this fall, primarily driven by the expected increase in viewership in anticipation of the 2024 presidential elections. Zucker told the Yahoo Finance Invest Conference on Tuesday that CNN was “not for sale” and that buying the network was “not something we’re actively thinking about.”
But he then mused that if the channel did come onto the market it would be a “fantastic asset.” “Some day if it were available, like any other great asset, we would look at it,” Zucker, who spent nearly a decade at CNN after rising the corporate ranks at NBC, said. *That’s not to say yes or no, it’s just to say it’s a great asset and if the time came, we would look at it.”
Zucker’s comments were reported by the news site Mediaite. Last week, in an interview with the Financial Times, Zucker mentioned that although life has become “simpler” since his departure, he expressed a wish that he could have been leading the network during a significant news event, such as the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 and their aftermath. “I think it’s an incredibly important story. This is really the only time since I’ve left where I’ve regretted not being part of it,” Zucker told FT.
RedBird IMI, a collaborative venture supported by RedBird Capital and the Abu Dhabi-based private investment fund International Media Investments, has appointed Zucker to head the group in its pursuit of acquiring assets in the sports, media, and entertainment sectors. The future of CNN has been a topic of extensive discussion, particularly in the context of Warner Bros. Discovery’s aggressive cost-cutting measures, following the $43 billion mega-merger between these media conglomerates.
While David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, has consistently stated that CNN is not up for sale, his decisions to halt the CNN+ streaming service and implement staff layoffs have sparked speculation about the potential sale of the once-dominant cable network. During Zaslav’s tenure, CNN has experienced a period of instability. After Jeff Zucker’s departure, Zaslav appointed Chris Licht, a former showrunner for Stephen Colbert, as his replacement.
However, Licht’s 14-month leadership at CNN was characterized by poor viewership ratings, the departure of long-time anchor Don Lemon due to on-air controversies, and a newsroom that predominantly remained loyal to Zucker. Licht was dismissed from his position following a critical exposé in The Atlantic, which portrayed him as a sensitive and distant executive who was constantly anxious about his position.
Zaslav has recently chosen Mark Thompson, a former BBC executive, to take over from Licht. In the previous month, Jeff Zucker’s division acquired a partial ownership interest in the online newsletter Front Office Sports. The specific amount of the investment was not revealed, but according to Bloomberg News, the transaction estimated the value of FOS at approximately $40 million.
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To provide context, the newsletter was valued at around $25 million when Crain Communications acquired a minority stake in it in February of the previous year. The investment in Front Office represents the third venture undertaken by Jeff Zucker since launching RedBird IMI, although he has been exploring numerous other potential deals. Back in June, there were reports suggesting Zucker’s interest in entities like the Washington Post, Semafor, Puck, and Air Mail, which was founded by former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.