CNN chief Jeff Zucker abruptly quit on Wednesday, citing an undisclosed sexual involvement with a colleague. Since then, Allison Gollust has been one of the most talked-about names --- the marketing and public relations executive with whom Zucker had a years-long secret romantic relationship.
Gollust, 49, is a longtime public relations specialist who's spent her career working in television. She has known Zucker for more than 20 years now and according to other CNN employees their affair was an open secret. According to sources, Zucker and Gollust's affair was the "worst kept secret in TV" but they conspired to keep it out of the media for years with a web of lies.
A Long Association
Zucker, 56, announced that he is retiring from CNN on Wednesday morning after failing to reveal his romantic relationship with Gollust to the network, which he said came to light during CNN's investigation into Chris Cuomo.
Since the Gollust has been under the spotlight. She too issued a statement acknowledging her relationship with Zucker that immediately raised eyebrows. "Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years. Recently, our relationship changed during COVID. I regret that we didn't disclose it at the right time."
Interestingly, Gollust has managed to keep her job at the network although colleagues allege that her statement was full of lies. Multiple sources claim that Zucker and Gollust, who is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of CNN, has been have been involved in a secret romance for more than 10 years.
It is believed that Gollust is quite a rigid woman and an employee. Although she described her relationship as consensual, Gollust made it clear she does not intend to resign. "I'm incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do every day," she wrote.
Unlike Zucker, who was a known face, Gollust maintained a low profile at the network despite having huge experience in television. It is believed that her relationship with Zucker started long before the two joined CNN. Although they never spoke about it, it was an open secret form the very beginning.
Gollust previously worked as Andrew Cuomo's communications director in 2012. Some may view Zucker's connection to the Cuomos as a source of bias, whether fairly or not. It is said that Zucker initially safeguarded Chris Cuomo from termination and that was because of Gollust's association with his elder brother.
Prior to that she was the executive vice president of corporate communications at NBCUniversal. Here's where she made Zucker.
Zucker was also with NBC during that time and rose through the ranks to become the company's CEO between 2007 and 2010. For 15 years, he and Gollust worked together there.
As Zucker rose through the ranks of NBC Entertainment to become president, Gollust rose through the ranks of the network's public relations department.
Gollust started working for NBC's corporate communications office in 1996 and the following year, was named senior publicist for "Today."
"With successive promotions, Gollust added responsibility for communications efforts supporting NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and the Weather Channel, and signature programs including NBC Nightly News, Dateline and Meet the Press," Gollust's CNN bio states.
The Secret Affair
Gollust progressed through the ranks of NBC Universal to become executive vice president of corporate communications, but she resigned around the same time that Comcast bought the network.
In 2012, Gollust took a break from television to work as the communications director for former Governor Andrew Cuomo. The disgraced politician described her as "a consummate professional with a depth of expertise in communications and administration" in a statement at the time.
However, the relationship strengthened further four months later after Zucker hired her to become CNN's senior vice president of communications at CNN, about a month after he became president of CNN Worldwide.
That October, Gollust was promoted to chief marketing officer at CNN and later became an executive vice president at the network, but it's not clear when that promotion happened.
Gollust's colleagues claim that her affair with Zucker is at least seven years old and that it was an open secret, although she had claimed in the statement that it started during Covid.
Soledad O'Brien, a former CNN anchor, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that Gollust and Zucker's relationship was known to all. "I encourage you to google the two parties and read the details about their relationship that dates back years. That said, I'm sure company emails can easily determine if she's lying in this statement," O'Brien wrote.
According to multiple sources, Zucker and Gollust have been secretly dating for more than 10 years, even as they lived in the same Manhattan building on consecutive floors with their former spouses.
The secret affair was also the reason behind the end of their respective marriages. As the pair took vacations together, went apartment hunting and going into each other's hotel rooms for alleged "meetings," Gollust has spent years lying about their affair, blasting reporters on numerous occasions for being "sexist" by suggesting she was sleeping with her boss.
Prior to her relationship with Zucker, she was married to William Hult, public records show.
Hult, who goes by Billy, is currently the president of Tradeweb Markets, an international financial services firm, according to the company's website.