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NBC Universal Chief Jeff Zucker resigns

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said Friday that he would be stepping down as soon as the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal was completed, which is expected later this year.

Zucker Zucker made the announcement to his staff in New York on Friday morning, and it was first reported by the New York Times. The move was not entirely unexpected because Comcast, which will own the majority stake of the combined entity, has made it clear that Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke would be in charge of NBC Universal. The timing of the announcement, however, was sooner than most people had figured.

Behind the scenes for the last few weeks, Zucker and his bosses at General Electric Co., which currently owns NBC Universal, have been tussling over when Burke would unveil his plans for a new organizational structure -- which presumably would not include Zucker.

Zucker, who rose to prominence as the youngest-ever executive producer of the "Today" show and spent four years running the company's entertainment operation in Burbank, took over the entire company in 2007. 

It was a tumultuous reign. Although Zucker energized the company, moved NBC Universal into the digital age and was a key architect of the online video website Hulu, he badly misfired by hiring an inexperienced independent TV producer, Ben Silverman, to be in charge of programming for the NBC network.

His risky and well-publicized move to shift "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno to a 10 p.m. program severely damaged NBC's prime-time schedule and seriously affected the finances of NBC affiliate TV stations, which rely on the late local news for much of their revenue.

Earlier this year, Zucker's plan to move Leno back to late night infuriated Conan O'Brien, who had been given the "Tonight Show," and led to a protracted separation that played out like a soap opera on late-night TV.  

Zucker sent this e-mail to his staff:

Well, the time has come. This time, to tell you a little news about me.

When Comcast assumes control of NBC Universal, I will leave the company.

It has not been an easy or simple decision. I have spent my entire adult life here, more than 24 years. This is the only place I have ever worked. The only professional thing I have ever known. I met my wife here, enjoyed the birth of our four children in that time, worked in almost every division of the company. And forged relationships, both professional and personal, that will last a lifetime.

I remember, vividly, the first day I came to work here in August, 1986. I walked to work at 30 Rockefeller Plaza that day; it was humid and my shirt was soaking by the time I got there. In the years since, I have enjoyed nothing but sheer pleasure in having the names NBC and Universal on my business cards. Sure, there have been ups and downs in the last quarter century. But when I step back, and think about what we've been through, I feel nothing but pride and joy. It has been a great run and I've been incredibly fortunate.

Now, it is clear to me that this is the right decision for me and for the company. Comcast will be a great new steward, just as GE has been, and they deserve the chance to implement their own vision.

I am proud that they will inherit a company in very good shape, with almost every one of our divisions enjoying their best year ever. The current strength of the company is a tribute to every one of you and the terrific leadership team that is in place.

We'll talk more about the shape of the company in the months ahead. For now, I just wanted you to know my plans. I won't be going anywhere until the day the deal closes, and that day is still months away. There is plenty left to do, and we have an obligation to each other to maintain what we have already built. I will continue to approach everything we do with the long-term interest of the company in mind, just as I always have; I know no other way.

I don't yet know what my future will bring. I've spent the last 24 years thinking only about NBC Universal, and never contemplated anything else. I haven't even begun to think about the next chapter. But I wanted to be honest with you about this news as soon as I could.

I love NBC Universal. And always will. And I am grateful to each of you.

My most heartfelt thanks.



-- Meg James

Photo: Jeff Zucker. Credit: Justin Lane/EPA. 

Comments () | Archives (20)

I thought NBC went out of business years ago.

Rejoice, rejoice!!! Zucker has been a DISASTER for YEARS. How he lasted this long can only be explained by questioning who the heck he's been sleeping with.

Very smart, Comcast is known as the Walmart of the telecommunication industry.

Zucker's departure is comparatively comfortable, and he exhibits his gratitude in the memo. He's had a good run, profitable and personally satisfying in large part. As exits go these days, this is pretty benign. My thoughts turn to a co-worker I met as a tech who now is a junior executive at Comcast; and I'm hoping she'll get her shot at being a powerhouse: she deserves it. I remember with great pride a student from years ago who is now a major film producer. Jeff's turn to step aside and make room for a new player is a good thing. Everybody should celebrate.

Hasta la vista baby....

Hooray. He screwed up the Conan and Jay thing. To me, it sounds Comcast gave him a graceful way of bowing out instead the real truth that Comcast has fire him.

Good riddance, he will not be missed.

LOL. I think they started going down when their 'news' outlets became the propaganda arm for GE's support of the Obama manifesto for CAP and TAX, the war on fossil fuels, and the Healthcare fiasco that GE was so heavily invested in. Showcasing Jounolist Leftist Propaganda writers wasn't such a hot idea, either. Ratings plunged.

They fired the Editor of Pravda, too, after the Soviet Union collapsed. I think we're seeing the end of 'Progressive' Liberalism as a guiding philosophy.

The King Is Dead. Long Live The King.

Wow! Professional and classy all the way!

Zucker is one of those guys known in the TV business for selling the sizzle, for awhile anyway, until it starts to smell. He trashed the news credibility of the Today Show in favor of trashy show biz values....he "supersized" episodes of TV shows like "Friends" ...adding a few minutes as a ratings gimmick. He developed a long string of failed shows, although he had Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld available to do more he instead came up with junk for the other cast members that failed. He is a laughing stock in TV for trying to force Leno out....Conan in....then keep Leno at the wrong time...etc...etc. Maybe the first TV executive ever to try to push a number one long time host off his program. Zucker has failed and failed and failed and even where there is a hint of something working its because he dumbed it down, cheapened it, gutted it for a few bucks. Just a horrible guy who hurt a ton of good people with his messes.

And his overinflated severance package will be.....?

Zucker, now go fix CBS!

I think Conan's career will be more interesting to watch evolve than Zucks'

His goodbye might be classy and professional, but his tenure certainly wasn't. Good riddance to the man who shoved NBC so far down the toilet, even RotoRooter can't get them out.

Jeff Zucker was not an "architect" of Hulu. Perhaps early on, when Hulu's temp name was "Newsite," Zucker contributed an idea or two. I was on the Hulu launch team, and I never heard his name mentioned.

Comcast's COO Steve Burke will have a challenge cleaning up NBCUni's information technology group, which is not well cast with managers, directors, etc. GE had NBCUni aggressively offshore, with spotty results across many web applications, including one for contracts.

I don't think you can call it a resignation when your new boss calls you to a meeting and says 'your done".

The very definition of failing upward. Best year ever for NBC divisions? Maybe the best of his tenure, which is nothing to celebrate. I'm sure his severance will make Conan's look like chump change.

Not since Michael Ovitz' departure from Disney has a chief executive taken down so many good, creative people with him. The sad part is there's no great loss for NBC because there's a Zucker born every minute.

NBC finally moves to FOX column. LOL.

"...the Obama manifesto for CAP and TAX..."

More proof that, for some people, hate is Universal.


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