Jim Walton (pictured) is stepping down as president of CNN Worldwide, calling time on the company he has called home for more than three decades.
He will continue in his current role, which he has held for 10 years, until the end of this year. During his tenure CNN’s profits have grown, however it has lost ground in the primetime ratings war to rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
Most recently the network has begun an expansion into lifestyle non-fiction programming, in a bid to widen its audience. In May, it announced it was hiring Travel Channel host Anthony Bourdain to host a new weekend program, launching next year, which would serve as a signature showcase for the network’s coverage of food and travel.
In a company email, Walton told staff: “CNN needs new thinking. That starts with a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan, one who will build on our great foundation and will commit to seeing it through.
“And I’m ready for a change. I have interests to explore and I want to give myself time to do it.”
Turner Broadcasting System chairman and CEO Phil Kent, who will lead the hunt for Walton’s replacement, paid tribute to the departing president in a statement. “Jim is the leader we all aspire to be: Smart and steady, tough and fair, business-savvy and respected by his team, and with a track record of great judgment when it matters most,” he said.
“His vision has modernized and globalized our legacy news brand, enhanced CNN’s journalistic standing, positioned it at the forefront of multi-platform branded news content and challenged the organization to think bigger, reach further and do better.”
Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes also paid tribute, adding: “In his nearly 31 years of uninterrupted and distinguished service to CNN, Jim has been instrumental in growing the business into the financial powerhouse it has become, while establishing the brand as the worldwide leader for television news.
“I respect him personally and professionally and support the decision he and Phil Kent have reached.”