Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, is leaving the company after an investigation into an inappropriate workplace relationship, the company’s owner, Comcast, he said in a statement on Sunday.
In the statement, Mr Shell said Sunday would be his last and that he had had an “improper relationship with a woman in the company”.
“I am truly sorry I left my colleagues at Comcast and NBCUniversal, they are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them over the past 19 years has been a privilege.”
Comcast’s brief statement did not say who will replace Mr. Shell at NBCUniversal, which he has led since 2020.
But in a memo to employees Sunday, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said Mr. Shell’s senior team will report to Mike Kavanaugh, the Comcast president, putting Mr. Cavanagh in effective control of NBCUniversal.
“We are disappointed to share this news with you,” Mr. Roberts wrote. “We built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than the way we treat each other.”
News of Mr. Shell’s exit from NBCUniversal sent scripts rippling across New York and Hollywood, where he spearheaded Comcast’s sprawling entertainment empire. His departure comes at a pivotal time for Comcast, which is navigating a difficult transition from its traditional television and cable businesses to a future anchored by streaming video, broadband Internet, and wireless services.
Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, has been enjoying some momentum in recent months, but it’s still small compared to its peers. Peacock has more than 20 million paid subscribers, far less than Netflix (232 million) or the Warner Bros. offerings. Discovery for HBO Max and Discovery+ (96 million). Some major media companies’ live broadcast companies are still losing money, and Peacock is no exception. It lost about $2.5 billion last year and is expected to lose another $3 billion this year.
NBCUniversal also owns several cable networks, including Bravo and E! and MSNBC and USA, which are facing declining viewership of traditional television.
The Shell investigation began in recent weeks after the woman involved in the affair lodged a complaint, according to two people familiar with the investigation timeline. Mr. Shell continued his duties while the investigation continued, holding pre-scheduled meetings with lawmakers in Washington and working on other matters. Mr. Shell is scheduled to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington with his wife next Saturday.
The investigation, which was conducted by an outside law firm, was not widely known throughout Comcast until its conclusion, according to three people familiar with the matter. Mr. Roberts and Mr. Kavanagh contacted the executives who work directly with Mr. Shell this weekend to tell them that Mr. Shell is leaving and to update them on the sudden leadership transition.
Although Universal Pictures is not the biggest movie studio in Hollywood, it is a huge success. Some of the highlights of 2022 include “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: Rise of Gru”. The year started off stronger, with “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” closing in on $900 million in global ticket sales after just three weekends in theaters, making it the company’s highest-grossing animated film in its history.
Other highly anticipated films slated for release this year include the tenth installment in the “Fast and Furious” series along with Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated Oppenheimer, which is about the famous nuclear physicist. The studio has also begun a flexible distribution strategy that uses tiered screening between theaters and its streaming service, Peacock, for larger films. For smaller titles, like “Marry Me” starring Jennifer Lopez, and last year’s horror flick “Firestarter,” the theatrical debut and streaming debut are in sync.
The company’s parks were also a bright spot, as rising attendance and guest spending drove record profits last year. The company plans to open theme parks in Las Vegas and Frisco, Texas in the next several years.
The company is set to report its quarterly earnings this week, in a conference call that will be closely scrutinized.
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