Former Dick Clark Prods. Chief Mark Shapiro Emerges as Candidate to Lead CNN (Report)

John Schearer/Getty Images for DCP

CEO since May 2010, he spent 12 years as an executive at ESPN networks.

The former ESPN programming executive joins Jeff Zucker on the shortlist of leading contenders to replace Jim Walton.

Mark Shapiro reportedly is in the running to head up CNN when Jim Walton exits the Time Warner-owned company at year's end.

Shapiro, former CEO of Dick Clark Productions, has joined former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker as a potential candidate to replace Walton, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources.

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Incidentally, both Shapiro and Zucker, who executive produces Katie Couric's new daytime talk show, also were reported as possible candidates for the CEO post at the beleaguered Tribune Co. earlier this year. (Shapiro is a Tribune board member.)

The Times reports that Time Warner's senior execs are hoping to name Walton's replacement within the next few weeks.

Shapiro spent 12 years at ESPN, joining as a production assistant in 1993 and rising through the ranks to become executive vp programming and production. While at ESPN, Shapiro took heat for some of his decisions, including Rush Limbaugh's short-lived stint on the Sunday NFL Countdown show.

Shapiro left ESPN in 2005 to lead the private investment company Red Zone, founded by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. He later served as a consultant to the NFL Network.

Walton announced his decision to step down from his longtime post as president of CNN Worldwide in July, after months of foundering ratings at the cable news network. He officially will depart the company when his contract expires at year's end.

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“CNN needs new thinking,” he wrote in an e-mail to staffers upon announcing his resignation. “That starts with a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan, one who will build on our great foundation and will commit to seeing it through. And I’m ready for a change. I have interests to explore, and I want to give myself time to do it.”

Shapiro reportedly was approached only recently, on the heels of his stepping down as head of DCP, after the company was sold to Guggenheim Partners (which is a co-owner of Prometheus Global Media, owner of The Hollywood Reporter). He still is a consultant to DCP and also sits on the board of Live Nation and Papa John's.

CNN declined comment.