Two CEOs One Too Many for Current TV

Rosenthal leaving two months after Hyatt took co-CEO title

Sources close to Current TV say that the departure of Current TV CEO Mark Rosenthal comes two months after the network's co-founder, Joel Hyatt, took the position of co-CEO alongside Rosenthal in a move that was never publicly announced.

While Current states Rosenthal’s departure was a mutually agreed upon decision, sources close to the network say it was Rosenthal who decided to leave, in response to the previously unforeseen challenge of having to govern the network alongside someone else, although those same sources claim the parting itself was amicable.

“[Rosenthal] came onboard to be CEO and not co-CEO,” says one of those sources. “It was difficult for the team, and he saw that. . . . After a certain amount of time, he decided it wasn’t working for him or for anybody.”

What wasn't working? “Decision-making. Communication," adds this source. "If there’s more than one person overseeing the day-to-day functions, it becomes confusing who the ultimate decision-maker is. I think for all of the staff, when you have two people, [you start to ask] who’s really in charge?”

Rosenthal, a cable industry veteran who previously worked as president and COO of MTV Networks, joined Current as chief executive in February 2009 and quickly went about professionalizing what had been a small outlet with a less-than-clear objective. He built up Current’s ad sales and research departments, and brought in big-name colleagues from his MTV days to help oversee key departments.

And he oversaw the hiring of former MSNBC star Keith Olbermann to serve as the center of Current’s (still developing) prime-time slate.

For his part, Hyatt—Current’s co-founder, along with Al Gore—had served as CEO of the network before Rosenthal took over. Hyatt’s decision to take back the reins came at roughly the same time Olbermann debuted on the network in June. Despite Olbermann's rocky history with his bosses at other networks, Current insiders say Rosenthal and Olbermann got along well, and their relationship did not play a role in Rosenthal's departure.

Asked what might have prompted Hyatt’s decision to jump back into the top seat, a source speculated that Hyatt wanted to play a more active role in the network moving forward, and that the position itself had become more interesting with the new star on board. “I’m sure [the arrival of] Olbermann had a lot to do with it,” the source said.