NBCUniversal CEO exits, citing ‘inappropriate relationship’

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell exits, citing ‘inappropriate relationship’ at company

NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell has resigned after three years in the lead role due to “an inappropriate relationship,” parent company Comcast Corp. made the announcement on Sunday, making him the latest high-powered Hollywood player to lose his job due to misconduct.

Comcast said in a statement that the company and Shell have “mutually agreed” that this will be effective immediately following an investigation into the improper behavior led by outside counsel.

“Today is my last day as CEO of NBCUniversal,” Shell said in a statement. “I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret. I am truly sorry that I let down my colleagues at Comcast and NBCUniversal, they are some of the most talented people in the business and I have had the privilege of working with them over the past 19 years. ,

Comcast doesn’t plan to begin the search for Shell’s successor immediately.

Instead, Comcast President Mike Cavanagh will take over Shell’s senior executive team and lead the entertainment company in the interim, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Cavanagh said in a note to employees.

Nine executives reported to Shell, including Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chair Donna Langley, NBC Universal Television and Streaming Chair Mark Lazarus, Entertainment Networks Chair Frances Berwick and NBC Universal News Group Chair Cesar Conde.

In the memo, Roberts and Cavanagh said, “We are disappointed to share this news with you.” “We have built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than how we treat each other. You must trust your leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, shown in July 2022

(Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images)

The nature of the improper relationship was unclear, and executives from Comcast and NBCUniversal declined to elaborate.

The woman with whom Shell had an inappropriate relationship was the person who filed the complaint, according to two people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to comment. Sources said that he has been a journalist in the company for a long time.

The woman who filed the complaint alleging inappropriate behavior by Shell was CNBC anchor and senior international correspondent Hadley Gamble, a person familiar with the matter said.

Gamble was not immediately available for comment Sunday night, and a Shell representative declined to comment. Deadline previously reported that Gamble had filed a complaint.

Comcast said it took “swift” action after receiving the complaint and launched an external investigation.

The commotion was sudden.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Shell was engaged in his regular duties for the whole of last week. He traveled to Philadelphia, where Comcast is headquartered, on Thursday to attend a celebration in honor of Roberts, who received the William Penn Award from the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia.

Shell’s departure caused a stir among the employees. Some people knew about the investigation internally.

Comcast officials declined to say when they received the complaint.

The company decided over the weekend that Shell needed to go, according to people familiar with the matter.

Shell, 57, was not immediately available for comment.

“When there is a violation of our principles and policies, we always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here,” Roberts and Cavanagh said in their note.

Shell’s departure comes at an inconvenient time for NBCUniversal, which has struggled to carve a clear path in the streaming era and remain a source of news and entertainment for millions of viewers. Mayur, the streaming service launched in 2020 under Shell’s watch, has lagged behind several competitors, including Disney+.

Comcast is set to report quarterly earnings on Thursday, and next month is an important time for NBCUniversal’s television division.

The all-important advertising sales season begins in mid-May. Broadcast network NBC is struggling with low ratings and has had trouble developing new hits to complement older mainstream favorites like “Law & Order: SVU” and “The Voice.”

An important decision for Shell was whether to give NBC the 10 p.m. I should give up on basic programming. return that hour block to TV stations for prime-time hours and local newscasts.

For now, NBC plans to continue providing programming during the hour, including some procedural dramas from television producer Dick Wolf, but the debate underscores the challenges in keeping the broadcast network relevant and profitable in the digital age.

Shell was expected to play a major role in Comcast’s talks with Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger over the fate of streaming service Hulu. Disney has a controlling stake in Hulu, and Comcast owns 33%. Comcast agreed nearly four years ago to sell its stake to Disney for $9 billion by January 2024.

But Iger has recently shown less enthusiasm for creating mainstream entertainment, including original programming, for Hulu, leading analysts to speculate that Disney will try to sell the service. Disney is in the midst of a dramatic cost-cutting program that, including Hulu, is expected to begin this week in a major round of layoffs. NBCUniversal has also gone through several rounds of cost-cutting.

Additionally, film and TV studios are in high-level talks with the Writers Guild of America to reach a new labor agreement by May 1. Failure to reach a deal would result in the screenwriters’ first strike in 15 years.

Shell was a trusted Comcast executive for nearly two decades. He became CEO of NBCUniversal in January 2020, replacing longtime chief Steve Burke, who ran the company for nearly a decade.

The Los Angeles native holds degrees in economics and applied mathematics from UC Berkeley and an MA from Harvard.

He went to work at Walt Disney in strategic planning. He held a variety of jobs at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation for 11 years, including one year as CEO of the beleaguered Gemstar-TV Guide International, which was then co-owned by Fox. He joined Comcast in 2004, previously managing the company’s smaller TV channels such as E! and Golf Channel.

After Comcast bought NBCUniversal in 2011, Burke sent Shell to London to learn international business. It was clear that Burke saw Shell as his successor after he was put in charge of Universal Film Studios in 2013, where he led the studio during its most profitable years.

Several Hollywood executives have been ousted in recent years for their questionable behavior with women, including his sudden departure from NBCUniversal.

The company fired longtime Universal Studios executive Ron Mayer in August 2020 after it was revealed he paid an actress to cover up an earlier affair. At the time, Shell said in a statement that Mayer “acted in a manner that we believe is inconsistent with our company policies or values.”

Last year, Jeff Zucker, the former CEO of NBCUniversal, was also forced to resign from a top job at rival CNN after admitting an affair with a colleague. In 2019, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara left the Burbank studio after an affair with the same woman Mayer held the position. CBS chief Leslie Moonves was ousted in 2018 amid allegations that he abused women in the 1980s and 1990s, which Moonves denies.

Shell demonstrated little tolerance for scandals during his tenure. Following an investigation by The Times into questionable finances and the lack of black members within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Shell made it clear that the HFPA’s Golden Globes broadcast was not welcome on NBC, leading to a one-year hiatus for the awards show. was delayed. Spacing encouraged.

After years of criticism that NBCUniversal had obstructed its handling of allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein and former “Today” anchor Matt Lauer, Shell took a hard line, ending the absence of longtime NBC News chief Andy .

Leave a Comment