NEW YORK—Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav heaped praise on his newly minted CNN chief Mark Thompson, calling him an “exceptional leader”—all in front of the man Zaslav fired and Thompson replaced.
Appearing on-stage with New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin during the paper’s DealBook Summit on Wednesday, Zaslav offered his views on CNN’s tumultuous trajectory during his nearly two years atop its parent company. Sorkin asked Zaslav about his toughest day on the job, with the CEO citing the company’s first round of sweeping layoffs last year.
“I thought you might say something about Chris Licht,” Sorkin replied, referencing the former CNN CEO whom Zaslav hired for the job in 2022 before financial losses and sagging ratings (and, of course, that disastrous Atlantic profile) ultimately led to his high-profile firing in June. Zaslav has since hired Thompson, a former New York Times Company CEO who he said on Wednesday has “won the hearts and minds of the team” at CNN.
Sitting in the audience throughout this interview was Licht himself.
Zaslav called the ex-CNN boss a “good friend” and “talented,” but noted that the pair faced their own struggles during Licht’s turbulent yearlong tenure.
“There was a lot of great days, there was a lot of tough days,” Zaslav said. “But Chris has had a lot of great days.”
He touted Licht’s accomplishments in spearheading MSNBC’s Morning Joe and a revitalized CBS This Morning—neither of which are CNN programming—and confessed the two had “a lot of fun, a lot of battles together.”
“Chris is gonna have a lot of great chapters,” Zaslav concluded. “And hopefully some of those with us at Warner Bros.”
Subscribe to Confider, The Daily Beast’s media newsletter, and get juicy scoops in your inbox every week.