Mark Thompson, former CEO of the New York Times Company, has been linked with the top job at CNN.
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Two British media figures have been linked with the top job at CNN, Semafor reported.
Mark Thompson, the former New York Times Company CEO, is the “leading candidate,” per the outlet.
But CNN’s parent company has also reportedly “spoken to” James Harding, a former head of BBC News.
CNN has been without a boss since Chris Licht walked the plank in early June, following a disastrous year in charge of the struggling news network.
A group of three executives has been leading the WarnerBrothers Discovery network since then, but that could soon change.
Not one, but two, British media figures have been linked with the role, Semafor first reported. In recent days, the outlet said Mark Thompson, the former New York Times Company CEO, was a “leading candidate” to take the top job at CNN, citing unnamed sources familiar with discussions.
But another name has also emerged: James Harding, the former head of BBC News and a former editor of The Times of London, Semafor reported.
The top role at CNN became vacant after Licht departed following a series of missteps, including a disastrous town hall with Donald Trump that damaged staff morale and led some of the network’s top anchors to voice concerns, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In June, a damning profile in The Atlantic sealed Licht’s fate, and he was out just days after its publication. He’d only been in the role since May 2022, taking over from Jeff Zucker following the merger that created WarnerBrothers Discovery.
Of the two Brits in the frame, Thompson is perhaps the more obvious choice. Before an eight-year stint as The New York Times boss, he was director-general of the BBC.
Earlier in his career he’d been in charge of key TV news programs at the broadcaster, and he also had a stint running Britain’s Channel 4.
“Thompson’s credentials as a media turnaround artist and as a manager of giant, high-wire corporate cultures media are unmatched,” Semafor’s Ben Smith noted. “That experience might make him an attractive choice for WBD CEO David Zaslav after Licht, a star programmer who had not run a giant company, struggled in the role.”
Thompson is currently the chairman of Ancestry, and it’s unclear if he’d be interested in the gig. Still, Semafor reported that television “is in his blood,” according to former New York Times colleagues, “and it may be hard for him not to consider the top job at an iconic global company.”
Both WarnerBrothers Discovery and Thompson did not immediately respond to a requests for comment from Insider, nor did they comment to Semafor.
James Harding is a former head of BBC News and edited The Times of London.
Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
While Thompson is the “leading candidate for the role,” people at CNN’s parent company have also “spoken to” Harding, Semafor reported. Harding led BBC News for nearly five years, before founding the “slow news” outlet Tortoise in 2018.
Harding edited The Times from 2007 until 2012, and previously worked for the Financial Times in Asia, Washington DC and London.
Harding did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider, made outside normal working hours.
Whoever does get the top spot will have to right the ship, address sagging ratings, and steer the news outlet to new horizons. WBD said Thursday that live news from CNN will be available on the Max streaming platform from late September. The decision to launch CNN Max comes about year after the company axed CNN+.