Allison Gollust Speaks Out About Jeff Zucker Relationship After He Resigns as CNN President
Allison Gollust is addressing her relationship with former CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker after he was forced to resign due to his failure to disclose their romance with the network.
In a statement shared with PEOPLE, Gollust — a chief marketing officer for the network — expressed her “regret” over the couple’s failure to inform their employer of their romance.
“Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years,” her statement reads. “Recently, our relationship changed during COVID. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time.”
Added Gollust, “I’m incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do everyday.”
Zucker, 56, announced his resignation from his longtime role in a staff memo on Wednesday. At the time, the media executive did not reveal Gollust’s identity.
“I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years,” the statement read, per CNN. “I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today.”
Reflecting on his time spent at the network, Zucker added that he wishes his former colleagues “nothing but the best in the years ahead.”
A second email to staff from Jason Kilar — CEO of CNN parent company WarnerMedia — said Zucker’s resignation had been “accepted.”
“We thank Jeff for his contributions over the past 9 years,” the statement continued, per CNN. “We will be announcing an interim leadership plan shortly. Both of these organizations are at the top of their respective games and are well prepared for their next chapters.”
A source tells PEOPLE that the situation surrounding Zucker’s resignation unfolded “very, very, very quickly” and that he was given an ultimatum by Kilar after confirming his relationship with Gollust: resign or be fired.
“[Zucker and Gollust] were asked about their relationship as part of the Cuomo investigation and they answered truthfully and that was the first time they had disclosed it to anyone,” the insider says. “And that was a problem because Jeff was required to disclose it when it began.”
This source is also adamant that Zucker and Gollust’s relationship turned romantic approximately a year ago, despite accounts otherwise. (“It was an open secret and I haven’t even worked there for like 8 years,” former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien tweeted on Wednesday.)
The source says questions about the relationship arose during an investigation into former anchor Chris Cuomo, who was fired in December. That probe is being conducted by the firm Cravath, Swain & Moore for WarnerMedia.
As for why Gollust chose to stay at CNN, the source says Zucker “was the one that violated the policy and she didn’t.”
Zucker — who has retained crisis communications rep Risa Heller and her deputy TJ Ducklo, a former White House official — has no immediate next steps planned, the source says.
Before his resignation and secret romance news broke, Katie Couric had mentioned Zucker and Gollust’s close bond in her October 2021 memoir, Going There. Couric, 65, said Zucker “made a huge push to bring on Allison Gollust” during his tenure at NBCUniversal, where the broadcast journalist was previously employed while hosting NBC’s TODAY from 1991 to 2006.
“When we worked together at NBC, she and Jeff cooked up even bolder ways to draw attention to TODAY and later Jeff himself when he moved to Entertainment,” she wrote. “They were joined at the hip. The problem was, we’d already hired a PR person for the show. There wasn’t a role for Allison. Jeff asked me to meet with her anyway.”
Couric also recalled when Gollust “and her husband and kids had moved into the apartment above” the one where Zucker and his now ex-wife, Caryn Nathanson, lived. (Zucker and Nathanson, who share four children together, were married from 1996 to 2019.)
“Everyone who heard about the cozy arrangement thought it was super strange,” she continued. “By that point, [Zucker’s then-wife] Caryn had become a close friend and it made me really uncomfortable.”
Later addressing her previous comments in her “Wake-Up Call” newsletter Thursday, Couric admitted she “wondered about the nature of their relationship.” She added, “It seems their colleagues and the media at large turned a blind eye to inappropriate behavior.”