The fires are almost out at CNN. As CNN emerges from a year of executive shuffling and slumping ratings,
CNN's second-in-command, president and COO Phil Kent, resigned on Wednesday.
Kent's departure is effective at week's end. CNN officials say he is leaving the company, but does not yet have other plans. Some of Kent's duties fall to Jim Walton, president of CNN domestic networks, and Brad Ferrer, CNN News Group's EVP of finance, but there are no plans to replace him for now, according to Walter Isaacson, head of CNN's News Group. Chris Cramer, head of CNN international, may also play a role.
"This will have no effect on the direction [of CNN]," Isaacson said. "It's mainly personal but it's not a major shift. We'll miss him personally."
Over the last 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.
That became clear in July when Turner Broadcasting Chairman Jamie Kellner overlooked Kent and tapped Time Inc. veteran Isaacson to replace Tom Johnson as head of CNN's news operations. Isaacson said Kent agreed to stay on until September to help ease his transition. CNN sources say there was a lot of overlap in Isaacson's and Kent's responsibilities and that Isaacson won out.
One insider noted Kent's departure was no surprise because his background is in business - not editorial - development. Before joining CNN in August 2000, Kent headed Turner Home Entertainment.
Isaacson is slowly getting his footing at CNN. He is crafting a new signature prime time newscast, which should debut in July, to be anchored by former ABC star Aaron Brown.
Meanwhile, ratings are up, climbing to a 0.7 rating in August, compared May and June's 0.6 ratings, according to Nielsen numbers, as Headline News smoothly transitioned to its new format - although its ratings growth has been modest. - Allison Romano
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