‘Involved From the Beginning’: Jeff Zucker’s Relationship With Top CNN Executives

Jeff Zucker term is the president of CNN ended abruptly on Wednesday just days after he admitted to the company’s lawyers what has long been rumored in the television news circles: He is in a romantic relationship with the person he describes. described as his closest professional colleague, Allison Gollust.

Gollust, 49, is CNN’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, though those titles only reflect her influence: As one of the network’s senior leaders, she’s closely involved. closely to business and communication strategy. She also served as Mr. Zucker’s chief spokesman, defending him fiercely when he fight The President at the time was Donald J. Trump, dispute with the company’s competitors and directional ethics scandals.

She has worked with Mr. Zucker for more than 20 years, starting as a senior journalist on NBC’s “Today” show in 1997, when Mr. Zucker – then an executive producer of wunderkind in their 20s – sent the morning show into a phenomenon. height rating.

Their relationship is now at the heart of the question of why Mr. Zucker, 56, was forced to resign abruptly from his nine-year job by WarnerMedia, the parent company of CNN. CNN is a few weeks away a subscription streaming platformand WarnerMedia is on the rise a big acquisition by Discovery Inc.

For CNN employees, Zucker’s resignation after failing to disclose his relationship, as required by standard company policy, came as a surprise. Many journalists and producers at CNN have expressed confusion, even on television, as to why the consensual relationship between two colleagues is divorced – one is the network president, the other is the president of the network. as a senior executive – leading to a dramatic move.

WarnerMedia’s standard policy stipulates that personal relationships must be disclosed immediately to “avoid a conflict of interest,” especially if one of the people is in a “position of influence” on a career.

It was clear to colleagues and friends that Mr. Zucker and Mrs. Gollust frequently traveled and operated together as a unit.

In recent years, Mr. Zucker has rarely appeared at public events without Mrs. Gollust by her side. They sat side by side at White House Correspondents’ Association dinners, industry gala dinners like the Peabody Awards, flashy events at the old Four Seasons restaurant, and, last fall, a concert music by Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, where they attended a group of CNN colleagues, including hosts Don Lemon and Fareed Zakaria.

Colleagues meeting Mr. Zucker in the lobby of CNN’s Midtown Manhattan office are sure to see Ms. Gollust following a few steps, if not for the “West Wing” conversation with Mr. Zucker. Colleagues say the impression is that the two run the network more or less as one unit, mulling together most of the major decisions affecting CNN’s future.

It was a pattern that dates back to earlier chapters of Mr. Zucker’s career at NBCUniversal, where Ms. Gollust first emerged as his most trusted aide.

“They got together,” former “Today” host Katie Couric wrote of Mr. Zucker and Mrs. Gollust in her 2021 memoir, ““Come here. ”

When the two were still their respective spouses, Mr. Zucker and Mrs. Gollust lived for several years in the same luxury apartment building in Manhattan’s Upper East Side; Miss Gollust and her family lived one floor above Zuckers.

Office relationships are not uncommon in the pressurized world of television news, and rumors of a potential romance between the two have been on the rise, especially after their divorce. Mr. Zucker and his wife, Caryn, divorced in 2017; The New York Post report which Ms. Gollust and her husband filed for divorce in 2015.

But rumors are still rumors, until Wednesday.

Jason Kilar, the WarnerMedia chief executive who informed Mr. Zucker that he would have to step down, told CNN journalists at a meeting in his Washington office on Wednesday that he was “not aware of the relationship.” “in light of recent events. Mr. Kilar did not specify when he first learned of it, but he acknowledged that the relationship came about as part of a CNN investigation into the tenure of Chris Cuomo, the anchor star who was fired. last year for mentoring his brother, then Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, on how to deal with sexual harassment allegations.

In Wednesday’s memo announcing his resignation, Mr. Zucker put it this way: “The relationship has evolved in recent years.” Ms Gollust, in her own statement, wrote: “Recently, our relationship has changed during Covid.”

Ms. Gollust said she would stay at CNN.

At NBC – where Mr. Zucker was first president of its entertainment division, and later chief executive officer of NBCUniversal – Gollust assumed important responsibilities. She oversaw communications for NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, and the Weather Channel, then transitioned to a media executive role at NBC Universal.

In 2011, after Mr. Zucker was ousted from NBC Universal, he became executive producer on a new daytime talk show in development for Ms. Couric at ABC. Ms. Couric wrote in her book that it was a “huge push” to invite Ms. Gollust to handle public relations for the programme. She recalled telling Mr. Zucker that she had hired someone for the role, and that Mr. Zucker nonetheless urged her to meet Ms. Gollust.

Ms Couric wrote: ‘I had to wonder why it was so difficult for Jeff to get Allison on the plane. “She and her husband and kids have moved into the apartment directly above Jeff and Caryn’s – everyone who heard about the cozy arrangement thought it was super weird. By that point, Caryn had become a close friend, and that really annoyed me.”

Ms. Couric wrote that she had told Ms. Gollust that there was no work for her.

In late 2012, Ms. Gollust signed on to become the communications director for Andrew Cuomo, then governor of New York.

Soon after she began working with Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Zucker was appointed as CNN’s next president. Mrs. Gollust leave her job with Mr. Cuomo after four months to rejoin Mr. Zucker and media host for CNN.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/business/media/jeff-zucker-allison-gollust-cnn.html ‘Involved From the Beginning’: Jeff Zucker’s Relationship With Top CNN Executives

Fry Electronics Team

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