Another billionaire has added a media company to his wishlist: John Catsimatidis, the chairman and CEO of grocery chains Gristedes Foods and D'Agostino Supermarkets. He’s recently been telling news outlets he’d be willing to purchase CNN from Warner Bros. Discovery.
“I’d go run the place tomorrow morning, and all I’d want is $1 per year and a piece of the upside,” the grocery mogul told the New York Post.
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Catsimatidis’s comments come at a difficult time for the media outlet, which has faced declining viewership and turnover in the C-suite in recent years. On Aug. 30, CNN brought in Mark Thompson, former chief executive of the BBC and The New York Times, to replace former network head Chris Licht, who was let go in June after a brief one-year stint. Licht’s exit came shortly after the highly scrutinized Donald Trump town hall broadcast that some of the company’s most lauded reporters roundly criticized.
If given the opportunity, Catsimatidis says he could run CNN better than it had been.
Catsimatidis has big plans for CNN
In an interview with Fox Business, the Catsimatidis said he believed he could quadruple CNN’s viewership rapidly.
“CNN only has, what, 400,000 viewers every night?” he said. “I told them … I’ll have it up to two million in one year."
Catsimatidis also indicated that he’d be willing to consider joint ventures to finance the deal and that he could “double the profits” relatively quickly if given control.
His strategy would include making the content more bipartisan in an effort to broaden viewership — though his lack of television media experience and highly partisan views raise some doubts.
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Who is John Catsimatidis?
Born in Greece and raised in New York, Catsimatidis is an entrepreneur and radio show host. Besides grocery stores, his holdings include a real estate firm, an aviation company, an oil refinery and the Hellenic Times newspaper.
He also hosts The Cats Roundtable radio show. His radio station, WABC-AM 770, is ranked 11th in New York City based on Neilsen’s data.
Forbes estimates his net worth at $4.1 billion.
As for his political leanings, Catsimatidis was a registered Democrat who supported the Bill Clinton campaign until 2009. He later decided to run for mayor as a Republican and has been a prominent voice on the conservative side of the aisle ever since.
He supported Donald Trump during the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, but has recently said that he trusts the courts to legitimately adjudicate recent charges against the former president.
Is CNN even for sale?
Financial struggles in the media industry have ignited speculation about spin-offs and mergers. CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, has been sending mixed signals to financial observers. The company has laid off staff in an attempt to tackle its $50 billion debt burden.
CNN has seen primetime viewership decline, while annual profits slipped from $1.25 billion in 2021 to $750 million last year, according to The New York Times. Investment bankers believe the outlet could be sold for $5 billion to $6 billion if it’s ever put on the market, a source told the New York Post.
However, CNN’s parent company’s stock was up over 30% in the first half of 2023.
Warner Bros. Discovery, for its part, hasn’t given any sign it intends to sell the brand.
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