May 26, 2024

Neeraj Khemlani is stepping down as co-head of CBS News.

The Paramount Global unit announced Khemlani’s exit on Sunday. No successor was named, but Khemlani shared his title with Wendy McMahon, who oversees the CBS-owned TV stations and could step into his role.

In a memo to staff, Khemlani said he will remain with CBS as a content producer.

“I’m pleased to share that I’ve signed a multi-year, multi-platform first look deal with CBS to develop content — including documentaries, scripted series and books for Simon & Schuster,” he said. “It’s an opportunity that will allow me to write, report and develop stories that I’ve long wanted to pursue.”

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Khemlani took over the news division from Susan Zirinsky in April 2021. He was the fourth executive to hold the post since 2011.

Khemlani and McMahon were brought in after an executive house-cleaning at the CBS stations division that followed a Los Angeles Times investigation into how previous management allegedly bullied female managers and blocked efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.

A former producer for the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes,” Khemlani returned to CBS News after a decade as executive vice president and deputy group head at Hearst Newspapers.

As head of the news division, Khemlani oversaw the revamping of the network’s morning show, “CBS Mornings.” He beefed up the CBS News Streaming channel, adding programs and getting the network’s big-name on-air talent involved.

Khemlani also succeeded in attracting new names to the division, including Nate Burleson, co-host of “CBS Mornings,” Cecilia Vega, who left ABC News to join “60 Minutes,” investigative journalist Lisa Ling and former Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.

But Khemlani was also under pressure to reduce costs in the news division, which had fallen into the red before he arrived as CBS deals with declining traditional TV audiences, which result in lower ad revenues.

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Khemlani was privately criticized by some co-workers for being blunt in his interactions inside CBS News. Some of those complaints got into the New York Post, which led to speculation that his days were numbered.

CBS Chief Executive George Cheeks, who hired Khemlani, praised him for his performance at the company in a memo sent to staff Sunday.

“Neeraj will leave CBS News with our broadcasts stronger and our streaming footprint bigger and better,” Cheeks wrote. “The talent he recruited to the division the past few years is best in class. He has put new business plans in place to drive more revenue, which is essential in a challenging environment for all media companies.”

Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.