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Big day for Comcast's Burke: gets new deal and joins Buffett's board

December 22, 2009 |  5:22 pm

Burke

Comcast Corp. made it perfectly clear who will be in charge (not that there was any doubt).

The company said this afternoon that Steve Burke, Comcast's chief operating officer, last week signed a new five-year employment contract that recognizes his increased responsibilities as the executive who will oversee NBC Universal after the media company merges into the Philadelphia-based cable television giant.

In a regulatory filing, Comcast said the agreement, signed Dec. 16, will keep the 51-year-old Burke at the company at least until Dec. 31, 2014.

"Mr. Burke, in his role as Chief Operating Officer, will be responsible for leading the transition planning and post-closing integration efforts for the Company’s recently announced joint venture ... with General Electric," according to the filing. "Mr. Burke will also supervise the [NBC Universal] Joint Venture’s Chief Executive Officer."

The CEO of the Comcast-controlled NBC Universal is expected to be Jeff Zucker, the current CEO. Zucker also negotiated a new employment agreement -- Zucker's deal is for three years -- with his bosses at General Electric as part of the announcement earlier this month that GE was selling control of NBC Universal to Comcast.

Comcast said Burke's base salary would remain unchanged for now, but he would be eligible for a pay increase at the end of February as part of a company-wide program. Burke's base salary in 2008 and 2009 was $2.2 million.

As part of the agreement, Burke also is entitled to receive two cash bonuses, each of $3 million, and two restricted stock grants, each having a value of about $6 million. The first cash bonus was made this month and the second one is scheduled for June 30, 2010, or at the closing of Comcast's acquisition of the controlling interest of NBC Universal.

Comcast also extended the employment of its chief financial officer, Michael J. Angelakis, three years to Dec. 31, 2012. The agreement acknowledges Angelakis' increased responsibilities.

"Mr. Angelakis will assist Mr. Burke in the transition planning and post-closing integration efforts for the NBCU Joint Venture, will be responsible for managing the financing activities related to the closing of the NBCU Joint Venture, and will be the Chief Financial Officer of the larger and more complex company following closing," the filing said.

It is unclear what role NBC Universal's current CFO, Lynn Calpeter, a well-respected executive within GE, will have in the new entity.

Meanwhile, Comcast extended the employment of its general counsel, Arthur Block, for five years to Dec. 31, 2014.  Comcast said that Block would be in charge of "managing the larger and more complex law function of the company" once it merges with NBC Universal, meaning that Block would become the boss of NBC Universal's general counsel, Richard Cotton.

Tuesday was a good day for Burke. Not only is his star shining bright in Philadelphia, but in Omaha too.  Investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. elected Burke to its board of directors, a particularly prestigious appointment given the company's standing on Wall Street.

-- Meg James

Photo credit: Steve Burke photo by Mike Appleton / Associated Press

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