NEW YORK — Now that Walter Isaacson is firmly entrenched at CNN News Group, Phil Kent, the news net’s prexy and chief operating officer, has resigned.
“I could have stayed for the next couple years and filled up my days productively, but I took this job a year ago when CNN (had) very different circumstances,” said Kent, who will exit at the end of September. “I am proud of all we accomplished and believe that this is the right decision for me at this point in my life.”
Some time off
Kent, 46, said he will take time off to decide what he wants to do next. “I’ve been blessed with a unique range of opportunities in my life,” Kent said. “I have no worries about figuring out what to do next. After running this thing, I can probably run any multinational corporation — not that I’ve gotten any offers.”
Isaacson said in a statement that he was sorry to see Kent leave. “He has done a great job at CNN. We will all miss him, and we wish him well.”
Kent’s position will most likely be phased out.
Insiders said that since early July, when Isaacson replaced Tom Johnson as chairman and CEO of CNN News Group, Kent’s role at the company has been in flux. Kent also felt slighted that he was not named to the top post.
“Walter and Phil had a lot of overlapping strengths and responsibilities,” a CNN newsroom person said. “There wasn’t really room for both of them.”
Kent was appointed to the newly created post of prexy-chief operating officer of CNN News Group in August 2000 after the departure of CNN’s then-prexy, Rick Kaplan. The appointment came amid exec reshuffling as CNN prepared for the merger of its parent Time Warner with America Online.
The primary goals at the time were to create a cohesive management team, get expenses under control and compete more aggressively in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Since that time, AOL Time Warner has restructured its television holdings, elevating Jamie Kellner to oversee a TV networks group that includes the Turner basic cable channels and the WB broadcast weblet. Kellner took over as chairman and CEO of a newly expanded Turner Broadcasting, replacing Terence McGuirk, who hired Kent, previously prexy of Turner Broadcasting System Intl.
As president-chief operating officer, Kent was responsible for overseeing the management for the networks’ nearly 4,000 employees and more than 30 cable, radio, Web and mobile services. From 1993-96, Kent was president of Turner Home Entertainment, the former Turner division comprising the company’s homevideo, new-media, licensing and merchandising, feature distribution and book publishing operations.
Before joining TBS, he was a television agent at CAA.
Kent began his career at Blair Television, where he helped build Blair Entertainment into a successful TV and radio production and syndication company. The company has since folded.