Sports Illustrated publisher The Arena Group has fired two senior executives, COO Andrew Kraft and President Rob Barrett, following its recent AI fiasco.
The dismissals were confirmed by a representative for Arena Group majority owner Manoj Bhargava, the billionaire 5-hour Energy magnate who acquired a majority stake in the media company back in August.
Arena Group's CEO Ross Levinsohn will stay in his role as chief executive.
Speaking to Futurism, Bhargava's rep claimed the dismissals were unrelated to recent revelations about Arena Group's use of AI or the resulting damage to the reputation of Sports Illustrated and Arena Group writ large — and that the cuts were made as part of Bhargava's overall reorganization plan.
The C-suite shuffle comes just over a week after a Futurism report revealed that Sports Illustrated and Arena Group-owned finance site TheStreet had been publishing affiliate link-laden commerce articles under the bylines of fake writers. Sources close to the creation of that fake author-bylined content told Futurism that the text itself was AI-generated, and published without proper automation disclosures. For their part, The Arena Group claimed that the third-party content provider that created the posts, AdVon Commerce, used fake authors as simple "pen names" for real people, and that no AI was used. Sure!
A botched AI program that involved lying to readers about the nature of the content they're consuming isn't Arena Group's only problem. Its stock has been plunging for quite some time; the AI news caused another significant hit, but the company hasn't seemed to be on excellent footing for a while now.
We reached out to both Kraft and Barrett's company emails, but those messages bounced. The two executives have also since been removed from the Arena Group's Slack channels, according to screenshots viewed by Futurism.
The news — to even casual observers — can't be all that surprising. The revelations about AI left a bad taste in the mouths of media consumers near and far, to say nothing of the Arena Group's own employees. And while Barghava might chalk it up to an overall restructuring effort: Hell of a time to start that work.
Disclosure: Futurism's parent company, Recurrent Ventures, previously worked with AdVon in 2022 via its partnership to distribute select content on third-party e-commerce platforms. This content was written by Recurrent’s contributors. Presently, Recurrent maintains a business relationship with them to test Commerce content internationally for select brands (of which Futurism is not one). AdVon content has never been published on Futurism or any of Recurrent's websites.
More on Sports Illustrated and its AI saga: Sports Illustrated Published Articles by Fake, AI-Generated Writers
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