NEW YORK — Lou Dobbs, president of CNN's financial network CNNfn and the anchor of CNN's hugely popular "Moneyline News Hour" business show, quit on Tuesday to join an Internet venture.
Dobbs was planning to announce to his staff he was leaving for Space.com, a start-up Web site he is founding that will carry news, entertainment and educational material on outer space.
The anchor, who had a sometimes stormy relationship with CNN's top executives and at one point was considered a top contender for the job of running CNN, had originally planned to launch the Web venture while continuing his CNN duties. CNN executives, however, ruled that there would be a conflict of interest to do both, said a person familiar with the situation. Dobbs couldn't be reached for comment.
Dobbs' departure comes on the heels of his recent dust-up with Richard Kaplan, president of CNN/U.S., over Kaplan's decision to bump Dobbs' "Moneyline" in favor of live coverage of a speech being given by President Clinton. In returning to the speech, Dobbs cited Kaplan on-air and made obvious his displeasure at the decision.
A CNN spokesman said Dobbs' departure was not related to the incident, which inspired a flurry of internal memos and reports on Kaplan and Dobbs' strained relationship.
Dobbs was one of CNN's original staffers when the all-news network launched in 1980. "Moneyline," the first nightly business newscast, developed a large following and now brings in the highest ad rates of any news program on television, either cable or broadcast, thanks to its affluent audience of decision makers.
Dobbs parlayed the success of the show into a stand-alone channel, CNNfn, and has lobbied successfully over the years to expand the channel's hours.
Before joining CNN, Dobbs was a local news anchor and reporter in Arizona.
No one has been named to replace Dobbs, who will leave at the end of the week.
In a prepared statement, CNN News Group Chairman Tom Johnson called Dobbs' contributions to CNN and financial reporting "immeasurable" and wished him well.
* "Moneyline News Hour" airs weekdays 3:30 and 8:30 p.m. on CNN.