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Comcast unveils management team for NBC Universal

November 18, 2010 | 10:20 am

Comcast unveiled its new executive lineup for NBC Universal on Thursday morning, ending months of anticipation and executive jockeying. Although Comcast has its new team in position, it must now wait until federal regulators approve the cable company's deal to take over NBC Universal, and that is not expected until late this year or early next year.

Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke, who will run NBC Universal after the deal closes, has created a layered structure with six executives holding the title of chairman. 

BURKE "For nearly a year, we have worked hard to identify people from NBC Universal, Comcast and outside the two companies to form our new leadership team when the deal closes.  Our goal has been to find people who have the skill sets we need to succeed and who reflect the values that will be the hallmark of NBC Universal, including teamwork, integrity, creativity and a commitment to treating people the right way," Steve Burke said in a statement. 

"We have also been very focused on putting in place the best possible organizational structure.  To that end, we have created some new positions, changed the scope of others and shifted some reporting assignments.  We think we’ve developed a structure that organizes the company in the smartest way possible," he said.

The proposed structure, with more than 10 people reporting to him, ensures that Burke will be a hands-on manager, involved in decisions large and small. Burke will serve as chief executive officer, replacing Jeff Zucker, who announced in September that he would step down when Comcast took over.

As expected, former Showtime President Robert Greenblatt will become chairman of NBC Entertainment, responsible for all aspects of prime-time and late-night programming, business affairs, West Coast research, marketing, public relations, scheduling and NBC Universal's television production studio. Marc Graboff and Angela Bromstad will report to Greenblatt.

Ted Harbert, who currently runs Comcast's entertainment channels, including E!, will become chairman of NBC Broadcasting.  He will take charge of advertising sales, NBC affiliate relations, companywide research, domestic television syndication and the NBC TV station group.  Alan Wurtzel, Barry Wallach, Vivi Zigler and John Wallace will report to Harbert.

Bonnie Hammer assumes control of the soon-to-be-merged company's most profitable enterprises. She becomes chairman of the NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. Hammer will continue to oversee the USA and Syfy channels, and she will take on responsibility for E! Entertainment, G4, Chiller, Sleuth, Universal HD and Universal Cable Productions.   

Lauren Zalaznick's portfolio also expanded enormously. She becomes chairwoman of NBC Universal Entertainment and Digital Networks. Bravo, Oxygen and the website iVillage will continue to report to Zalaznick, and she will oversee strategic marketing initiatives, including Green is Universal.  Zalaznick picks such digital properties as Daily Candy, Fandango, Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo and the cable networks Style, mun2 and PBS Sprout.

Dick Ebersol becomes chairman of the NBC Sports Group, responsible for NBC Sports, the Golf Channel, Versus and the Comcast Regional Sports Networks. 

Ron Meyer retains his turf as president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios. Adam Fogelson will continue as chairman of Universal Pictures, and Tom Williams will be in charge of Universal's parks and resorts.

Steve Capus continues as president of NBC News and MSNBC.  Mark Hoffman continues as president of CNBC.

Jeff Shell joins NBC Universal from Comcast to become chairman of NBC Universal International. He will be based in London.

Pat Fili-Krushel will join NBC Universal from Time Warner Inc. with a broad portfolio, including business strategy, human resources and legal.

Lynn Calpeter continues as NBC Universal's chief financial officer.  Rick Cotton continues as NBC Universal general counsel and will report to both Burke and Fili-Krushel.  Salil Mehta continues as president of business operations and strategy and will report to Fili-Krushel.  Former KNBC Channel 4 General Manager Paula Madison will continue to serve as executive vice president of diversity. John Eck continues in his role as president of NBC Media Works.

Longtime Comcast communications advisor Adam Miller will join NBC Universal as executive vice president for corporate affairs. The communications department will report to Miller, who currently works at Abernathy MacGregor Group.  Page Thompson will join NBC Universal from Comcast as executive vice president of strategic integration and be charged with identifying synergy opportunities among Comcast, NBC, Universal Studios, theme parks and cable channels.

Matt Bond will join NBC Universal from Comcast as executive vice president for content distribution. Two influential NBC Universal executives, Bridget Baker and J.B. Perrette, will report to Bond.

Advertising sales are split between Comcast executive Dave Cassaro, who becomes president of cable advertising sales, and Marianne Gambelli, who will become president of NBC Network Advertising. The former chief of ad sales and longtime General Electric executive, Mike Pilot, will leave the company.  

Jeff Gaspin, who has been in charge of NBC Universal's television channels since July 2009, will stay on during the transition period.  He and Burke discussed scenarios for Gaspin to remain at the company, but the two men could not agree on a suitable role.  Burke said communications chief Allison Gollust also will step down when Comcast takes over.  

"While this announcement provides some clarity to some roles and responsibilities," Burke said, "it is only the first in what will be a series of milestones as we move into 2011."

Now, the intrigue shifts from the question of which executives will survive the cut to speculation about when Comcast will get the keys to the prominent media company.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission continues to weigh the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal, currently owned by General Electric Co.  Most observers expect the government to attach several conditions before giving its blessing to the high-profile marriage. Comcast hopes the deal will close by year's end, but Washington insiders speculate that regulatory approval might come during the first quarter of 2011.

-- Meg James

Photo: Comcast's Steve Burke. Credit: Comcast.

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