Jeff Zucker’s return to the ranks of TV network executive will put him in charge of many people he worked with at NBC over the years. It will also put him in direct competition with one of his closest friends. Phil Griffin — now the president of MSNBC — worked at CNN early in his career. Griffin joined NBC’s “Today” first in 1983. And it was during his second stint on the show that he would meet Zucker, who would later become EP of the show. Years later, Zucker would name Griffin president of MSNBC.
Griffin is excited for his old friend, and the battle ahead, telling the New York Times: “[Roger] Ailes on one side, Zucker on the other: Game on.”
At CNN, Zucker will be working with several of his former employees including Soledad O’Brien who was an MSNBC original before moving to NBC and rising to “Weekend Today” co-anchor during the years that Zucker ran the show. Erin Burnett, a former CNBC star who’d been positioned for a greater role at NBC, is now a CNN host. Ashleigh Banfield made a name for herself on MSNBC after the 9/11 attacks and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now she anchors a daytime CNN show.
And it was Zucker who, as CEO of NBCU, allowed Piers Morgan to continue judging “America’s Got Talent” on NBC while taking an offer to host his own primetime CNN show. Morgan has since given up “AGT.”
And Jonathan Wald, EP of Morgan’s show, followed Zucker as executive producer of both “NBC Nightly News” and “Today” in the early 2000s. Wald’s ironic Tweet of the day: