CNN CEO Chris Licht reportedly was forced to hire extra security to wait outside a conference room where he was working after gutting hundreds of the network’s staff in a recent round of layoffs.
The cuts came Thursday and included some big names finding themselves on the chopping block, including on-air talent and contributors like Preet Bharara, Dan Merica, Alison Kosik, and Chris Cillizza.
Licht, 51, brought in additional security guards not only to be stationed outside the executive conference room where he positioned himself, but also to follow him throughout the day, Puck reported.
The network boss was seemingly hoping to avoid backlash or confrontations from any unruly staffers who fell victim to the cost-cutting moves.
CNN CEO Chris Licht reportedly was ‘forced to hire extra security’ to wait outside a conference room where he was working Thursday after gutting 10 percent of the network’s staff
Preet Bharara and Alison Kosik were both among the most recent round of cuts at CNN
Alex Field and Martin Savidge also lost their jobs from the cost-cutting layoffs at the network
Paul Begala and Chris Cillizza, political experts, were both cut in the Thursday layoffs
‘Some CNN sources who passed by Licht on Thursday did notice the presence of multiple security guards standing outside of the conference room, and at least one walking around with Licht as he moved about the floor,’ news outlet Puck reported.
Licht had sat in the executive conference room throughout the day with the doors open to take questions from remaining employees about the string of cuts.
Puck reported the ‘heightened security presence on a day of layoffs suggested Licht was mindful of how raw emotions were.’
While most of the cuts were off-camera employees, contributors, producers, and reporters like Martin Salvidge, Mary Ann Fox, and Alex Field also faced layoffs and are now forced to look for employment elsewhere.
Another major casualty of Licht’s cuts: CNN spinoff HLN and its entire staff.
Longtime HLN anchor Robin Meade who Licht described as ‘an exceptionally popular anchor,’ also fell victim to the cost-cutting moves, despite her popularity.
The cable news giant also scrapped all of HLN’s live programming, including longtime host Robin Meade, 53
Meade had been with the Atlanta-based morning show for more than 21 years
Most employees reportedly did not take Licht up on his ‘open invitation’ to discuss the cuts, the outlet reported.
‘What were we supposed to talk about?’ said one staffer who survived the layoffs.
One of the biggest cuts made Thursday included CNN’s New York bureau, which is regarded as ‘first on the scene’ for major events like the ‘9/11 terrorist attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing, or the Sandy Hook school shootings.’
Many remaining staffers were ‘too busy consoling one another, or being consoled’ over the cuts to visit the CNN CEO.
Licht stayed in the executive conference room throughout the day to allow any employees who wanted to speak with him to do so, even with security guards reportedly stationed outside
The decision keep the conference doors open throughout the day, even with guards standing outside, has also received some praise from others in the field, however.
‘That’s actual leadership,’ said one media executive who remained anonymous while speaking with Puck. ‘That’s not easy.’
In a memo sent to employees Thursday, Licht called the changes made ‘necessary’ and said they would make the network stronger for the future.
‘Our goal throughout the strategic review process has been to better align our people, processes and resources with our future priorities, strengthen our ability to deliver on CNN’s core journalistic mission and enable us to innovate in the years ahead,’ Licht wrote.
The news of the layoffs was announced in this email sent by Licht on Wednesday, just one day ahead of the mass firings
‘The changes we are making today are necessary and will make us stronger and better positioned to place big bets going forward without fear of failure,’ he continued.
The CEO, who took over for Jeff Zucker who resigned in February after admitting to a ‘relationship’ he had with a network executive, has been harshly criticized in the past over actions including previously telling employees there would not be layoffs.
In June, Licht told employees: ‘As it relates to CNN, there are no layoffs per se. A layoff is a downsizing, where you are given a target, and that is not happening at CNN.’
He later backtracked in October, saying certain ‘changes’ affecting ‘people, budgets and projects’ were being made.
In his tenure, Licht has also overseen the shutdown of CNN+ and the sacking of company vets like Brian Stelter, Jeffrey Toobin and John Harwood.
Former CEO boss Jeff Zucker resigned in February after admitting to a ‘relationship’ he had with a network executive
The head of the network has also been critiqued for his laissez-faire attitude with the employees at the company.
Licht’s office is located a whole five-stories above the CNN newsroom where his employees operate.
Additionally, the CEO reportedly has very little day-to-day contact with most of the employees, as opposed to his predecessor.
After Licht took over, he conducted a months-long review and discerned what needed to be changed to turn things around.
‘All decisions are designed to strengthen the core of our business,’ Licht said of the cuts
In his Thursday memo, he doubled down on his staffing cuts in the name of his commitment to the success of the network.
‘At the highest level, the goal is to direct our resources to best serve and grow audiences for our core news programming and products,’ Licht wrote.
‘To achieve these goals, we will be reducing open job positions, reimagining our workflows and aligning our staffing, investments and focus around three key strategic priorities: programming, newsgathering and digital,’ he added.
‘All decisions are designed to strengthen the core of our business.’