CNN COO Kent to depart

CNN's second in command, President and COO Phil Kent, stepped down last week as the news network's executive shuffles continued.

Over the past year, Kent shepherded CNN through the AOL Time Warner merger, trimmed the budget and overhauled operations, including laying off about 400 employees.

But, as the focus shifted from the business side to polishing the network's journalism and programming, Kent saw his role reduced.

"This will have no effect on the direction [of CNN]," said Walter Isaacson, head of the CNN News Group.

Earlier Turner Broadcasting Chairman Jamie Kellner sidestepped Kent to tap Isaacson, a Time Inc. veteran, to replace Tom Johnson as head of CNN's news operations. Isaacson said Kent agreed to stay on until September to help ease the transition.

Isaacson is slowly getting his footing at CNN. He is crafting a new signature prime time newscast, which should debut in mid October, anchored by former ABC star Aaron Brown. Nielsen ratings climbed to a 0.7 rating in August, compared with May and June's 0.6 ratings, and Headline News transitioned to its new format smoothly, albeit with some critical reaction.

CNN said Kent is leaving the company at the end of the month but does not yet have other plans.

Some of Kent's duties will fall to Jim Walton, president of CNN domestic networks, and Brad Ferrer, CNN News Group's executive vice president of finance, but there are no plans to replace him for now, according to Isaacson. Chris Cramer, head of CNN international, may also play a role.

Kent's departure was no surprise: His background is not editorial but business development, one insider noted.