Jeff Shell is leaving as chief executive of NBCUniversal after an investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct with a female colleague, parent company Comcast said on Sunday.
Shell, who has served as the top executive of the media network since January 2020, said in a statement provided by Comcast that he “had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company”. Comcast said his dismissal comes after an investigation led by outside counsel.
A 19-year veteran of the company, Shell oversaw a sprawling empire at NBCUniversal, ranging from the NBC television networks to the Universal film studios and resorts. In recent years he has grappled with the challenge of raising subscriptions at the Peacock streaming service, which has reached more than 20mn customers but lags far behind Netflix and Disney Plus.
Shell’s team — which includes Universal chair Donna Langley and Mark Lazarus, head of the television and streaming business — will now report to Mike Cavanagh, Comcast’s president.
People who have worked with Shell say he had long enjoyed the trust of Brian Roberts, Comcast chair and CEO. In a memo to staff seen by the FT, Roberts said he was “disappointed” to share the news of Shell’s departure. He added that employees should be able to count on “leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace”.
“When our principles and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here,” Roberts wrote in the memo, which was also signed by Cavanagh.
Shell’s departure follows other high-profile dismissals at NBC. In 2020, Universal vice-chair Ron Meyer was fired after confessing to making a settlement with a woman over a consensual affair. Matt Lauer, once the face of US morning news staple the Today show, was fired in 2017 after claims of inappropriate sexual behaviour with staffers.