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Dylan Ratigan Wants a Bigger Footprint

Dylan Ratigan’s abrupt departure from CNBC last week was the latest blow to the top-rated financial news network. The CNBC anchor was among the network’s more outsize personalities whose star had ascended as the financial markets plummeted.”I’m willing to take the risk of not renewing my contract at CNBC and looking at opportunities in cable and broadcast,” said Ratigan during a phone conversation on Monday.

Ratigan came out early against the rampant greed of Wall Street. Months before populist outrage over the bailout and AIG bonuses reached a fever pitch, Ratigan was railing against the “vampires” on Wall Street who were bleeding our 401Ks dry. It was a point of view that put him in opposition with many of his colleagues at CNBC.

Ratigan says that he wants to continue to explore the greed, corruption and regulatory breakdowns that have led to the current global meltdown. But he’s apparently looking for a bigger stage than was available to him at CNBC.

“I believe that there have been some major policy failures in this country and I’m looking for the broadest possible foot print to look at that story,” he said.

CNBC spokesman Brian Steel said, “We thank Dylan for all of his quality contributions and we wish him well.”

Ratigan has a six-month non-compete clause in his contract, according to sources, so he will not be going anywhere fast unless CNBC waives the clause. Rumors of a perch at ABC News and Good Morning America were shot down by sources at ABC. (Additionally, Mellody Hobson, president of Chicago-based money management firm Ariel Investments, has been a financial contributor on GMA since 2000. The network is currently readying a special primetime hour with her, which could be a test run for a bigger profile at the network.)

Ratigan’s departure underscores some of the programming issues at CNBC. Ratigan’s star vehicle was the ribald stock-picking show Fast Money. (Melissa Lee is filling in as host until a permanent replacement is named.) And while the tone of Fast Money had gradually shifted from wealth accumulation to wealth preservation as the financial crisis deepened, it is still primarily a show for a bull market. How long Fast Money can persevere in a decidedly bear market remains to be seen.

Ratigan’s defection also follows on the heels of the more organized adieu of Jonathan Wald. As CNBC’s senior vice president of business day programming, Wald presided over a streak of record ratings spurred by the financial crisis. He also oversaw the deployment of CNBC talent including Ratigan and Erin Burnett to various NBC News platforms to walk viewers through the meltdown morass and the alphabet soup of government bailout acronyms.

Ratigan appeared frequently on NBC’s Today and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Wald announced he would leave the network last month. His last day is Tuesday. Tyler Mathisen, managing editor and Wald’s number two; will take over in the interim. The long-form unit, which has been without a senior executive since Josh Howard left in December, will report to Ray Borelli, who is the head of research.

All of the internal upheaval comes as CNBC has endured two very public episodes - the fallout from Rick Santelli’s Howard Beale moment and Jon Stewart’s public lashing of Jim Cramer. And while both of these incidents brought CNBC a modicum of mainstream media notoriety, they haven’t exactly burnished the brand.