CNN's Johnson Steps Down

Cable News Network chairman and CEO Tom Johnson announced his retirement Thursday, telling staffers in a memo that he wanted to spend more time with his family in California.

CNN, which didn't name a successor, will be run by CNN News Group chief news executive Eason Jordan and network president and chief operating officer Phil Kent, a spokeswoman said.

Jordan will continue to report to Kent, the former Turner Broadcasting System International president who was named to his new position in September, following the resignation of former CNN president Rick Kaplan.

The biggest difference between Johnson and Kent — now the top executive at the all-news network — is that Kent has no journalism experience. Johnson, who received a journalism degree from the University of Georgia, was deputy press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson. He was also publisher of the Dallas Times-Herald
and The Los Angeles Times.

Kent, who studied economics at Lehigh University, joined TBS in 1993 after working as a packaging agent at Creative Artists Agency.

Johnson joined CNN in 1990, not long before the network's coverage of its signature event, the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In addition to driving CNN's growth, he oversaw the network when competition from Fox News Channel and MSNBC emerged in 1996, and he watched CNN's once dominant lead in the all-news war slip in recent years.

In May, FNC beat CNN in primetime for the eighth month in a row. FNC generated a 0.6 primetime rating, a 50 percent increase over May 2000. CNN averaged a 0.5 rating, even with last May's numbers.

"The successes of CNN have been your successes. For more than 20 years, you have built the most respected brand in television news," Jordan wrote in a memo to CNN staff. "CNN is the best because of your efforts, your sacrifices, your blood, sweat and tears."