Ross Levinsohn, the CEO of the parent company of Sports Illustrated, is out of a job, weeks after the venerable brand came under fire after accusations it had been publishing articles written by AI.
Arena Group Holdings, which includes the magazine in its portfolio, announced the cut late Monday, saying it was made “to improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company”. The AI incident was not mentioned in the terse release.
Manoj Bhargava, founder of 5-Hour Energy, was named interim CEO of Sports Illustrated. (Bhargava owns a majority stake in Arena.)
The executive shuffle at Sports Illustrated is just the latest in a series of high-profile cuts at Arena. Less than a week ago, the company fired three executives—operations president and chief operating officer Andrew Kraft, media president Rob Barrett, and corporate counsel Julie Fenster.
Sports Illustrated saw its reputation take a hit when reports of the allegedly AI-written stories became public last month. The company denied the stories themselves were written by AI, but fired the company that produced them and manufactured the bylines of authors who seemingly did not exist.
The union representing editorial staff at the magazine said that it was “horrified” by the report.
The Futurism website, which broke the story, quoted an unnamed person at the magazine who said artificial intelligence was used in the creation of some content as well — “no matter how much they say that it’s not.”
Levinsohn had served as CEO of Arena since 2020. Prior to that, he was a top executive at Yahoo, Tribune Publishing and Fox Interactive.
“After 4 1/2 years, today is my last day at The Arena Group,” Levinsohn wrote on LinkedIn. “Following our majority sale announced last month, the company is positioned well for the future. It has been an incredible ride. … Excited for what the future will bring and so grateful for the experience of running and building a public company with such success.”