CNN executive Jim Walton attends the CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at The Shrine Auditorium on December 11, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
ATLANTA -- The longtime president of CNN, Jim Walton, says he will leave the company at the end of the year.
Walton, who joined the company as an entry-level video journalist in 1981, said the company needed "a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experience and a new plan."
"For some time, I've been talking with (Turner Chairman and CEO) Phil Kent about wanting to make a change, and he supports my decision," Walton wrote in a memo to employees.
During Walton's tenure, CNN has expanded worldwide, on television, digital and mobile platforms.
"When Jim Walton assumed the presidency of CNN in 2003, it was under performing and earnings were in serious decline," Time Warner CEO and Chairman Jeff Bewkes said in a statement. "Since then, he and CNN have tripled earnings, doubled margin and delivered annual growth of 15 percent."
Phil Kent, Turner's chairman and CEO, said Walton is "the leader we all aspire to be. Smart, steady, tough and fair, business-savvy and respected by his team. His vision has modernized and globalized our legacy news brand, enhanced CNN's journalistic standing, positioned it at the forefront of multi-platform branded news content and challenged the organization to think bigger, reach further and do better. I am honored to work alongside him and proud to call him my friend."
Bewkes also praised Walton's service.
"In his nearly 31 years of interrupted and distinguished service to CNN, Jim has been instrumental in growing the business into the financial powerhouse it has become, while establishing the brand as the worldwide leader for television news," Bewkes said. "I respect him personally and professionally and support the decision he and Phil Kent have reached."