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Universal Pictures in the dark about Comcast talks with parent NBC Universal

October 1, 2009 | 10:14 am


As if the management at Universal Pictures didn't have enough to worry about.

As rumors continue to swirl about an impending executive shake-up at the Hollywood studio, Universal Studios President Ron Meyer and his team apparently had no clue that Comcast Corp. has been in talks to buy a stake in NBC Universal.

When a story about a potential deal between the two companies broke on the industry website the Wrap on Wednesday afternoon, Meyer and his movie chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde were heading to Thousand Oaks for a preview of the studio's upcoming Christmas release "It's Complicated," a comedy romance directed by Nancy Meyers and starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

According to a person close to Universal, when Meyer recently met with NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker to discuss the future of Shmuger and Linde, who have been under fire for the studio's dismal year at the box office and whose jobs are on the line, he was told that any such decisions had to be put on hold because something "major" was going on with the media company. Zucker did not specify what that was, said the person.

Three people familiar with the situation said that Meyer had been consulting with Zucker about the studio chief's desire to make a management change, when he was told to temporarily table the move. So, the fate of the two embattled movie executives and that of NBC Universal continue to hang in the balance.

On Wednesday, NBC Universal declined to comment on the talks between Comcast and NBC Universal. And, a spokesman for Comcast denied a report from the Wrap that a deal was in place, saying "While we do not normally comment on M&A rumors, the report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate."

Well, one thing is for sure: As the title of Universal's forthcoming movie suggests, it's complicated these days at the General Electric-owned media company.

-- Claudia Eller

Photo: Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, second from left, with Universal Pictures chairmen Marc Shmuger, second from right, and David Linde, right, at the premiere of "Funny People" in July. Director Judd Apatow is left and star Adam Sandler is center.