Sports Illustrated publisher fires CEO in latest round of exec terminations following AI scandal

The publisher of Sports Illustrated, The Arena Group, announced Monday that its CEO Ross Levinsohn has been terminated in the latest round of firings at the company in the wake of an AI scandal. 

Levinsohn will be replaced in the interim by Manoj Bhargava, the founder and CEO of Innovations Ventures known for creating the 5-hour energy drink, The Arena Group said in a statement. 

Though a reason for Levinsohn’s termination was not shared, the company said its board “took actions to improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company.”

It comes after the company terminated operations president and COO Andrew Kraft, media president Rob Barrett and corporate counsel Julie Fenster last week. 

Sports Illustrated fell into hot water in November after an article on science and tech news site Futurism accused the former sports news giant of using AI-generated content and author headshots without disclosing it to their readers.

The author’s names and bios did not connect to real people, Futurism reported.

When Futurism reached out to The Arena Group for comment on the the use of AI, all the AI-generated authors disappeared from the Sports Illustrated website. The Arena Group later said the articles in question were product reviews and licensed content from an external, third party company, AdVonCommerce, which assured that all the articles were written and edited by humans and that writers were allowed to use pen names.

Neither last week’s Arena Group firings nor Levinsohn’s termination addressed the AI controversy.

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