The 15-year-old son of CNN president Jeff Zucker was given a leadership position at New Jersey senatorial candidate Cory Booker’s tech startup. The teen abruptly resigned after news broke about what critics considered an “inappropriate” arrangement.
Andrew Zucker, the teenage son of CNN’s president, was working an odd job for children his age. He received stock options from a tech startup called Waywire in exchange for serving on the company’s advisory board.
Others on the board include Twitter Vice President Katie Stanton, journalist and Open Web advocate Jeff Jarvis, AOL executive Susan Lyne, and former FEC commissioner Trevor Potter. The teen, however, was hired not for his experience – but for his apparent insight into popular trends among children his age.
Waywire, a well-funded digital video curation site that TechCrunch recently described as “Pinterest for video”, was co-founded by New Jersey senatorial candidate Cory Booker, who claims he was “not involved at all” in hiring the 15-year-old, CNN reports. Sarah Ross, a tech executive at the company, allegedly approached the boy after hearing about how he assisted his dad with tech branding issues at CNN.
But critics have lashed out at the decision, claiming that the arrangement is inappropriate and noting the multitude of benefits that each party received. CNN last week wrote a news story on a fundraiser that Oprah Winfrey was scheduled to hold for Booker, which might have helped the New Jersey Democrat raise money for his campaign. And with stock options in a company that could soon be making billions, the 15-year-old was given a rare opportunity to potentially be making quick gains just for sharing his thoughts.
Booker, a New Jersey Democrat known for his networking skills, is hoping to fill the Senate seat that was vacated by the death of Frank Lautenberg. He serves as the mayor of Newark, is an active Twitter user, and is also the co-founder of Waywire, which Oprah Winfrey and Executive Chairman of Google Eric E. Schmidt invested in.
“So throwing a bone to one of the most powerful men in media, by way of corporate equity to his son who can’t even drive, is savvy, a mix of DC cynicism and Valley ‘disruption’ of common sense,” writes Gawker’s Sam Biddle. Some critics took to Twitter, calling the arrangement a “gross nepotism alert.”
Amid questions over his qualifications, the young Zucker abruptly resigned from his advisory position on Wednesday. CNN spokeswoman Allison Gollust released a statement on the decision, stating that the teen stepped down “in order to avoid even the perception of a conflict.”
The spokeswoman said Zucker’s stock options were “a ‘de minimus’ number,” and that they will be reverted back to the company.