Everyone agreed that the acquisition of Mr. Zaslav increased the likelihood that Mr. Zucker would remain in an expanded role that encompassed more of Discovery and Warner’s combined news and sports resources. For example, Discovery owns Eurosport, a European network with broadcast rights for the Olympic Games and major tennis and golf tournaments.
“They were an impressive team when they were together at NBC,” said Jeff Gaspin, former NBCUniversal entertainment chairman who worked closely with both men. “They’ll make an impressive team at Warner if Jeff wants to stay.”
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The two men started at NBC in the late 1980s. They trained under Jack Welch, chairman of General Electric who controlled the media company, and rose to prominence in the 1990s during NBC’s golden age “Must See TV”.
“It was a time when we looked at each other and we believed anything was possible,” Zaslav once said, reflecting on her salad days on NBC. Mr. Zucker eventually became managing director; Mr. Zaslav left in 2007 to lead Discovery.
Mr. Zucker is not known for making friends with other executives who could later become rivals. But he did say he and Mr Zaslav got closer after leaving NBC. Only a handful of guests were invited to Mr. Zucker’s intimate 50th birthday party at a Lower Manhattan hotel in 2015. Mr. Zaslav and his wife Pam made the cut.
In 2019 when Mr. Zaslav presented a career Over a starry lunch in Midtown Manhattan, he described the CNN president as “one of the greatest media leaders of all time.”
Within CNN, the response to the merger announcement this week has been happiness and relief. Mr Zucker’s loyalists were concerned about the prospect of his departure, and rumors circulated that, faced with a huge debt burden, AT&T would consider selling the highly profitable messaging network, possibly leaving it in the hands of an owner who cared less feels committed to his journalistic mission.