The fate of NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker is no longer in doubt. Zucker informed staffers Friday morning that he will indeed exit the company once Comcast closes its deal to take over control of NBCU from General Electric.
Quotes from both Zucker and GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt appeared in a story released on the New York Times website as the email announcing Zucker’s impending departure went out to NBCU employees.
“I love Jeff: I’d hire him again,” said Immelt in the Times story. But he won’t be doing the hiring once Comcast takes over.
Zucker said he knew from the time that the deal was announced to have Comcast buy a majority stake in NBCU that there was a possibility that the new owner would replace him. He told Bill Carter of the Times that it became inevitable after a meeting two weeks ago with Comcast COO Steve Burke.
While Comcast executives had made several statements praising Zucker’s leadership at NBCU, the careful observer noticed that they tended to focus on his development of the company’s cable properties. Zucker had presided over the NBC Network’s slide from first to worst and was, among other things, personally responsible for the disastrous move to schedule Jay Leno in primetime five days a week last season. The network is now trying to recover from that misstep with new programs launched this week in the 10-11 pm ET/PT weekday time slot.
RBR-TVBR observation: Zucker has a pretty good golden parachute in place, since NBCU signed him to a new three-year contract just seven months ago. He may need to update his resume, though, since he’s been at NBC/NBCU continuously from 1986, when he joined the network’s Olympic unit straight out of Harvard.