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Sports Illustrated publisher Arena Group fires CEO following AI controversy

The publisher of Sports Illustrated has ousted its chief executive officer following public backlash over the sport’s magazine’s alleged use of AI to write stories.

The Arena Group’s termination of CEO Ross Levinsohn came as the media giant’s board members met on Monday to consider measures to “improve [the company’s] operational efficiency and revenue,” the company said Monday in a statement posted on its website. The decision comes after SI became steeped in public controversy over allegations itused AI to generate contentand fictitious author bios for its website.

The alleged AI-generated content was firstreportedby tech-focused publication Futurism. According to a post by a spokesperson for Arena Group on SI’s X account in November, the questionable content included articles and product reviews from AdVon Commerce, a third-party content provider.

“AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans,” the X post read.

Stories removed from site

Though it denied the report that the famed publication produced articles written by artificial intelligence, Arena Group pulled the alleged AI-generated stories from SI.com pending an ongoing internal investigation.

Arena Group did not immediately respond to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment.

Manoj Bhargava, the 5-Hour Energy founder who owns a majority stake in Arena Group, was named the company’s interim CEO on Monday, according to the company’s statement.

Levinsohn stepped into the CEO role at Arena Group — which owns more than 250 brands reaching more than 100 million readers — in 2020, his LinkedIn profile shows. He has held senior leadership roles at HBO and CBS Sportsline, in addition to serving as Yahoo’s interim CEO in a career that spans three decades, according to the profile.

Arena Group’s latest firing follows three terminations at the company last week, including that of COO Andrew Kraft, media president Rob Barrett and corporate counsel Julie Fenster.

The company’s shares were trading more than 5% lower on Tuesday as of 2 p.m. EST.

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