Jim Walton, president of CNN, says he will leave by year
Jim Walton, president of CNN, says he will leave by year's end.

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CNN president will stay through end of year

Walton joined CNN in 1981

He became president of CNN in 2003

(CNN) —  

The long-time President of CNN Worldwide, Jim Walton, says he will leave the company at the end of the year.

Walton, who joined the company as an entry-level video journalist in 1981, said the company needed “a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan.”

“For some time, I’ve been talking with (Turner Chairman and CEO) Phil Kent about wanting to make a change, and he supports my decision,” Walton wrote in a memo to employees.

In a brief interview, Walton said that he timed his announcement to give Kent the opportunity to find a successor and “be open about it.”

“It’s a well-run place now,” Walton said. “We have also taken a lot of effort to make it a better place to work and in putting discipline in the organization. What it has allowed CNN to do is remain profitable when journalism is under seige and reinvest in its people and its resources and that’s a good thing.”

During Walton’s tenure, CNN has expanded worldwide, on television, digital and mobile platforms.

“When Jim Walton assumed the presidency of CNN in 2003, it was under performing and earnings were in serious decline,” Time Warner CEO and Chairman Jeff Bewkes said in a statement. “Since then, he and CNN have tripled earnings, doubled margins and delivered annual growth of 15 percent.”

Phil Kent, Turner’s chairman and CEO, said Walton is “the leader we all aspire to be. Smart, steady, tough, and fair, business-savvy and respected by his team. His vision has modernized and globalized our legacy news brand, enhanced CNN’s journalistic standing, positioned it at the forefront of multi-platform branded news content and challenged the organization to think bigger, reach further and do better. I am honored to work alongside him and proud to call him my friend.”

Bewkes also praised Walton’s service.

“In his nearly 31 years of uninterrupted and distinguished service to CNN, Jim has been instrumental in growing the business into the financial powerhouse it has become, while establishing the brand as the worldwide leader for television news,” Bewkes said. “I respect him personally and professionally and support the decision he and Phil Kent have reached.”

Walton’s first job, as a video journalist, was to tear apart the five-part carbon scripts for the anchors, producer and director, then run the teleprompter. He went on to learn the craft of video editing, before becoming a producer, executive producer, and then moving into senior management. He declined to say which was the toughest job.

“I have been really lucky to have done so many different jobs at this organization,” Walton said. “And each has been challenging and each has been rewarding in its own way. The important thing to note here is that I’m not leaving right now. We’ve got an election. We’ve got big news happening all throughout the world and we have got a lot to do.”