CNN head to become next Aspen Institute president |

CNN head to become next Aspen Institute president

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

CNN chief Walter Isaacson resigned his post Monday in order to take the helm of The Aspen Institute.

Isaacson, 50, also a former editorial director for Time Inc., will begin his appointment with the think tank later this spring. He succeeds former Institute President Elmer Johnson, who resigned last August.

“The Aspen Institute is fortunate to be handing over the reins of leadership to a person of Walter Isaacson’s intellectual stature, integrity and vision,” said William E. Mayer, chairman of the Institute’s board of trustees, in a statement. “Walter is a true Renaissance man with a genuine appreciation for the Institute’s five-decade-old mission of seeking answers to society’s most vexing problems through informed dialogue and inquiry.”

Isaacson, a graduate of both Harvard and Pembroke College of Oxford University, began his journalism career as a reporter for The Sunday Times of London. He joined Time magazine in 1978 as a national affairs writer based in New York, then made the move to Washington, D.C., and began life as a political correspondent.

Isaacson served as Time’s managing editor, assistant managing editor and editor for new media. He also supervised production of Time for Kids and Time Online. In 1995, he was named “Editor of the Year” by AdWeek magazine.

In July 2001, Isaacson was named chairman and CEO of CNN. He helped lure anchor Paula Zahn from rival Fox News Channel and also established prime-time news shows.

Isaacson was also involved in discussions to merge CNN with ABC News, a proposal that was later postponed by CNN?s parent company, AOL/Time Warner.

Isaacson has also established himself as an author. He published a biography of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1992, and co-authored a book about U.S. politicians and the Cold War. Isaacson is currently putting the finishing touches on a biography of Benjamin Franklin, scheduled for publication this fall.

Time to write was one of Isaacson’s motivations for taking the Institute appointment.

“I have valued my varied experiences at CNN and Time, but it is a time in my life to move to a different role,” Isaacson said of the switch. “Joining The Aspen Institute offers me the chance to return to doing what I love most ? writing as well as engaging leaders to confront the critical issues of our day.”

The institute addresses issues including the environment, economic development, international economies, education and national security. Former President Bill Clinton negotiated a historic Israeli-Palestinian peace accord at one of The Aspen Institute?s compounds in 1998.

Isaacson, a former Rhodes scholar, is being looked upon to enhance the institute?s Washington presence, said James Spiegelman, its communications director.

Isaacson will likely split his time between the Institute’s headquarters in Washington and its offices in New York, Maryland and, of course, Aspen.

He won’t be the first alumnus of the AOL/Time Warner family to take a hands-on role with the Institute. Gerald Levin, former CEO of the company, currently serves on the Institute’s board of trustees.

Other board members include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Saudi Arabian ambassador and Aspen resident Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.

[? The Associated Press contributed to this story.]

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