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CNN answers to Heyer authority in exec reorg

Net exec VP Bedingfield is interim prexy until Kaplan is replaced

NEW YORK – After the resignation of CNN/U.S. prexy Rick Kaplan, CNN News Group has reorganized its executive structure, giving more control to TBS president and CEO Steven J. Heyer.

In addition, CNN exec VP Sid Bedingfield has assumed the title of interim president until a replacement for Kaplan is found.

As expected, Philip I. Kent shifts from president of TBS Intl. to the newly created position of president and chief operating officer of CNN News Group. Kent, who will relocate from London to Atlanta, will report to chairman-CEO Tom Johnson on editorial matters and to Heyer on business and operating issues.

Jim Walton, president of CNN/SI, has been named prexy of CNN Networks/USA, and will be responsible for 15 CNN domestic news nets including CNNfn and Web sites such as CNN.com. Based in Atlanta, Walton will report to Kent.

Chris Cramer, president of CNN Intl., has been promoted to CNN Networks/Intl. and will report to Kent. Eason Jordan, who most recently served as president of news-gathering and international networks, assumes the new title of president of news-gathering and chief news exec of CNN News Group. He will report to Johnson on editorial matters and to Kent on operating issues.

AOL approaches

The moves come as CNN parent Time Warner spruces up its operations in advance of its pending combination with America Online.

“We’re preparing ourselves for the AOL merger, where we hope to be a powerful contributor to AOL platforms,” said Johnson, who, amid the changes, has lost oversight of CNN’s business and operating issues.

Responding to reports that the exec reshuffling doesn’t bode well for his future at CNN, Johnson said, “There is no diminution of the position of chairman and CEO.”

The changes were announced by Terence F. McGuirk, chairman and chief executive officer of TBS who is said to have initiated the exec reshuffling.

“This leadership realignment is a strategic deployment of one of our company’s greatest assets, its executive management,” said McGuirk. “I am confident that the new CNN leadership team will aggressively meet the competitive and operational challenges facing the world’s leading news organization in this era of rapid media convergence.”

Meanwhile, Lou Dobbs, the former CNN Financial News president and CNNfn CEO who abruptly ankled his post in June 1999 after a nasty spat with Kaplan, dispelled rumors that he would be returning to CNN.

“I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in returning to CNN,” said Dobbs, now chairman and CEO of Space.com.

Contrary to published reports, Jeff Greenfield, longtime ABC News political analyst who Kaplan brought over to CNN in 1997, said his position at the news net is secure, despite Kaplan’s exit.

“They say they want me to hang around,” said Greenfield, who worked with Kaplan at the Alphabet web. “Rick is an old and dear friend and colleague, and I feel lousy for him. He will not have a chance to complete what he set out to do.”

Best possible move

Kaplan’s name was notably absent from a CNN press release, distributed Wednesday, detailing the executive realignment. Perhaps in response to his lack of representation, Kaplan hired longtime friend and crisis management expert Jon Scanlon as his personal spokesman. In a statement Scanlon released Wednesday, Kaplan said that while he had been offered “several opportunities” at Turner Broadcasting, “I believe it is best that I now move on.”

Reflecting on his tenure at the news cabler, Kaplan said in the statement: “I have had a wonderful experience over the past three years. I thank the fine group of journalists that I have been privileged to work with. I am proud of what we have done together. I believe that we have enhanced the quality of news coverage and improved the depth of reporting.”

As far as the new execs in charge of CNN, Kaplan said he has “the greatest respect for those who are about to undertake the extraordinary challenges facing CNN and wish them only the best in the future.”

Kaplan’s last day at CNN was Wednesday.

In an internal memo sent to CNN staffers Wednesday, McGuirk and Johnson thanked Kaplan for doing a “terrific job” as president, further saying, “Everyone who works at the network — or, for that matter, watches it — knows firsthand that Rick has improved the quality and character of our news coverage. He leaves with our respect, gratitude and best wishes for continued success.”

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