Jeff Zucker Resignation: CNN Probe Now Eyes His Ties to Andrew Cuomo


In relationships, timing is every part. And the timeline on Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust’s coupledom will not be solely off by greater than twenty years, say sources who’ve labored with the pair — the CNN energy couple additionally repeatedly lied about their relationship to their company bosses.

In accordance with CNN president Zucker’s Feb. 2 resignation memo to workers, the romantic relationship — which marked a flagrant violation of company coverage on condition that Gollust, the community’s prime communications government, was a direct report back to Zucker for many of her nine-year tenure there — started someday prior to now two years. Gollust stated in that very same memo: “Jeff and I’ve been shut buddies {and professional} companions for over 20 years. Lately, our relationship modified throughout Covid. I remorse that we didn’t disclose it on the proper time.” Added Zucker: “The connection developed lately.”

Zucker famous in his memo that WarnerMedia’s ongoing investigation into Chris Cuomowho was fired in December for a breach of ethics after it was found he’d been advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whereas the latter confronted accusations of sexual harassment — introduced the affair to mild and prompted his resignation. And it appears the probe, which is being overseen by the legislation agency of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, is unearthing loads of embarrassing particulars concerning the goings-on at CNN. The scope of the investigation has now uncovered Zucker and Gollust’s relationship with Andrew Cuomo, too, a WarnerMedia supply acknowledged.

However sources who labored carefully with Zucker and Gollust courting again to their days at The At the moment Present within the mid-Nineties dispute their statements within the memo. In actuality, these sources inform Rolling Stone, Zucker turned romantically entangled with Gollust again in 1996, when she was a trainee in NBC’s company communications group and he was the married government producer of The At the moment Present. “It was the worst-kept secret, however Jeff was seen as untouchable,” says one insider. “And their statements [in the memo] are whole bullshit.”

In actual fact, the pair have skirted the problem a number of instances prior to now, and at the least one investigation into their relationship had been carried out by WarnerMedia properly earlier than Covid. But Zucker and Gollust denied the romance “again and again,” says a educated supply, and nothing modified within the company hierarchy’s reporting construction. A WarnerMedia spokesperson denied that any such investigation had ever been launched however acknowledged that each events had been requested concerning the nature of their relationship a number of instances after information retailers raised questions. The pair repeatedly denied any impropriety. (A New York Submit gossip merchandise hinted at a romance once they have been noticed arguing at a Hollywood Reporter social gathering in 2017.) 

A rep for Zucker says, “Jeff resigned attributable to an undisclosed private relationship. WarnerMedia confirmed that it considers the matter of his resignation closed.” A rep for Gollust didn’t reply to Rolling Stone’s request for remark.

Whereas Zucker claimed the Cravath investigation marked the primary time his undisclosed relationship with Gollust had turn into a problem, that flies within the face of what sources inform Rolling Stone.

On Could 1, 2020, Jason Kilar took the reins as CEO of WarnerMedia and instantly set about overhauling the sprawling leisure and media conglomerate owned by AT&T. Within the course of, Zucker, who additionally served as chairman of WarnerMedia’s information and sports activities division, misplaced oversight of CNN’s funds and human sources in addition to company communications — the division run by prime government Gollust. Sources say Kilar was conscious of rumors that Zucker was in a long-term relationship with Gollust, who was additionally the community’s chief advertising and marketing officer — and that Zucker, given simply 24 hours discover of the transfer, was furious. 

Kilar’s sudden restructuring prompted a number of journalists to start chasing the story of Zucker and Gollust’s unorthodox union. Again in September 2020, this reporter positioned calls to WarnerMedia and particularly requested if Kilar’s resolution to maneuver Gollust out from below Zucker was a results of studying about their relationship, which was in violation of the corporate’s code of conduct. On the time, a WarnerMedia spokesperson declined to reply and referred the matter to Gollust herself.

Nonetheless, a behind-the-scenes government showdown ensued, and Zucker appeared to have prevailed: After the Could 2021 announcement that AT&T could be spinning off WarnerMedia and merging it with Discovery, Kilar, reportedly blindsided by the information, started negotiating his exit, whereas Zucker was rumored to be getting a much bigger function within the new entity given his shut relationship with Discovery CEO David Zaslav. Gollust, in flip, was reportedly poised to take over for Zucker at CNN.

However these well-laid plans got here crashing down when the investigation into Chris Cuomo started sweeping up embarrassing particulars regarding Zucker and Gollust, together with emails and different “proof” that painted an simple image of the duo’s romantic relationship. The proof solely surfaced in current days, say two sources, and Kilar took swift motion in confronting the CNN president. Going through termination, Zucker resigned and isn’t poised to obtain any severance. Sources say Zaslav was not concerned within the resolution to chop ties with Zucker.

The uncovered affair isn’t the one crimson flag the investigation has raised on Zucker and Gollust. The probe, which is almost full, is being overseen by Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s Katherine Forrest, a former U.S. district decide who has carried out a number of investigations for WarnerMedia prior to now. (She was introduced in to look into Justice League star Ray Fisher’s claims of racism however “discovered no credible help” for the actor’s claims.) And a supply accustomed to Forrest’s work on the matter says that it’s not simply Chris Cuomo’s alleged function in serving to his brother Andrew navigate a sexual harassment scandal that has come below her scrutiny. 

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo and Chris Cuomo attend a screening of "RX: Early Detection A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee" during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festiva at SVA Theatre on April 26, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Andrew Cuomo and Chris Cuomo on the 2018 Tribeca Movie Competition in New York Metropolis.

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Photographs

The supply says the investigation suggests Zucker and Gollust have been advising the governor originally of the Covid pandemic in methods not dissimilar to what led to Chris Cuomo’s dismissal. As Andrew sparred every day with then-President Trump over Covid messaging, the couple offered the governor with speaking factors on how to answer the president’s criticisms of the New York disaster. Additionally they booked the governor to look on the community solely, which turned a scores boon for CNN, with Chris Cuomo doing the interviewing. Cuomo and Gollust’s conduct, too, would seem to mark an moral breach for executives appearing on behalf of an neutral information outlet.

“The autonomy of a information group requires it to not be engaged in any kind of direct exercise with any political actor,” says Tim Gleason, a journalism professor on the College of Oregon and media ethics knowledgeable, talking broadly. “In the event that they’re advising a politician [while] presumably reporting on exercise that that politician is engaged in, that’s duplicitous and misleading and a disservice to the viewers of a information group.”

Over the previous three many years, the Zucker-Gollust relationship was no secret contained in the newsrooms of NBC or CNN. Inside a yr of Zucker and Gollust commencing their affair, a number of sources say, Gollust leapfrogged from trainee to the function of senior publicist for At the moment, and Zucker turned her boss, a paradigm that continued for years to return with solely two temporary interruptions. Via a sequence of promotions, her purview expanded, and she or he added oversight duties for NBC Information, MSNBC, CNBC, and the Climate Channel in addition to NBC Nightly Information, Dateline, and Meet the Press.

In 2000, Zucker turned president of NBC Leisure and rapidly pulled off a sequence of splashy offers, together with signing Donald Trump to host The Apprentice and Joe Rogan to host Concern Issue. He ascended the company ladder, and in 2006, turned president and CEO of NBC Common. One yr later, he moved into an ultra-expensive Higher East Aspect co-op with views of Central Park. In accordance with public data, Gollust moved into the identical constructing together with her then-husband and youngsters a yr later.

In 2009, Gollust was named government VP of company communications at NBC Common, changing into the prime communications staffer on the community and the chief spokesperson for Zucker. ​​However in June 2010, Zucker was ousted as Comcast was about to finish its 51-percent acquisition of NBC Common. He was paid $30 million to $40 million to go away. 5 months later, Gollust resigned.

As Zucker was plotting his media-world comeback, he and Gollust turned intertwined with the Cuomo brothers. In 2012, Gollust took a put up as communications director for then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Not lengthy after, Zucker joined CNN, and one in every of his first hires was Chris Cuomo. Briefly succession, Gollust resigned from her place within the governor’s workplace and joined Zucker at CNN. She was named senior vice chairman of communications for CNN Worldwide. A press launch on the time stated Gollust would report back to Jeff Matteson, senior VP for Turner Broadcasting, “whereas working carefully together with her longtime colleague [Zucker].” However that reporting construction didn’t final lengthy. Seven months later, Gollust was promoted, including chief advertising and marketing officer for CNN Worldwide to her title. She started reporting on to Zucker.

After AT&T acquired WarnerMedia, the Zucker-Gollust union turned a possible drawback on the leisure big. Lately, firms have turn into much less tolerant of consensual relationships. In November 2019, McDonald’s fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, for courting an worker. One month later, BlackRock prime government Mark Wiseman was terminated for failing to reveal a relationship with an underling.

However the current Chris Cuomo investigation pushed the Zucker-Gollust relationship to the floor as soon as once more. Because the star anchor’s battle together with his former employer took a nasty flip, he employed Megyn Kelly’s lawyer Bryan Freedman to sue for some $20 million left on his contract, whereas CNN introduced in O’Melveny & Myers companion Daniel Petrocelli to characterize the community.

Because the mud settles on Zucker’s abrupt resignation, Gollust, who’s now divorced like Zucker, says she plans to stick with the community even when any ascension plans have evaporated. Within the meantime, Kilar introduced to shaken workers that Michael Bass, Amy Entelis, and Ken Jautz will function interim co-heads of CNN. The trio would serve in that function via the shut of the corporate’s merger with Discovery, which is predicted within the second quarter of this yr.

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