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Company Town : CNBC President Ailes Quits After Shake-Up at America's Talking

Media: Reagan's former strategist disavows any plan of joining a Republican presidential campaign.

January 19, 1996|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Roger Ailes resigned Thursday as president and chief executive of CNBC and America's Talking, the NBC-owned cable channels.

The 55-year-old executive who spanned the worlds of television and politics--first as Richard Nixon's television producer in 1968 and later as a top media strategist for Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George Bush in 1988--said simply that it's "time to move on."

Asked whether he was about to hook up with any of the Republican presidential candidates, Ailes said with a laugh, "Not a chance." He said he has no immediate plans other than to visit his favorite steakhouse in Brooklyn, his condo in Florida and to see some movies. He added that he would like to stay in television.

NBC President Bob Wright named Bill Bolster, president and general manager of WNBC-TV, the network's flagship station in New York, to succeed Ailes as CNBC president Feb. 2.

Wright also announced that Don Ohlmeyer, NBC's West Coast president, will take on prime-time programming responsibilities for CNBC, which features business news during the day and talk shows at night.

Both Bolster and Ohlmeyer will continue in their current positions as well.

Ailes, who is also executive producer of Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated TV show, took the helm at CNBC in August 1993 and helped boost its ratings and revenue.

Ailes also launched America's Talking, an all-talk channel, in 1994.

But NBC decided last month to turn America's Talking into a news channel that would compete with CNN and would fall under the aegis of the network news division. The new cable service, a partnership with Microsoft Corp., will be known as MSNBC cable.

In a phone interview from CNBC's headquarters in Fort Lee, N.J., Ailes said that the dismantling of America's Talking "created a restructuring of the senior staff and the reporting relationships in such a way that it was uncomfortable for me as an entrepreneurial spirit." He called his departure amicable.

The resignation came just a day after CNBC--the nation's 16th-largest cable channel, available in 55 million homes--announced that Ailes would replace Dick Cavett next month as the host of a weekend talk show after Cavett chose not to renew his contract. That plan will now be scrapped, CNBC spokesman Brian Lewis said.

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