Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Addresses Jeff Shell Ouster: ‘Obviously a Tough Moment’

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts spoke publicly on the shocking ouster of NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell during the media conglomerate’s first-quarter earnings call on Thursday.

“Obviously a tough moment, but we are so fortunate to have a fabulous and tenured leadership team at NBC Universal,” Roberts said. “If you go down the list, you’ll see many of them have been leading their divisions within the company for at least 10 years and are truly the best in the business.”

Shell was terminated with cause on Sunday after Comcast investigated allegations that he engaged in inappropriate conduct with a female employee, later identified as Hadley Gamble. Gamble, a CNBC anchor and senior international correspondent, filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment, her lawyer said.

“During the investigation, evidence was uncovered that corroborated the allegations,” the company noted in an 8-K filing on Monday. “As a consequence, on April 23, 2023, the Company terminated Mr. Shell’s employment With Cause under his employment agreement, effective immediately.”

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Shell, who first joined Comcast in 2004, took power as NBCUniversal CEO at the start of 2020 after working for the previous five years as the chairman of Universal Film and Entertainment Group. He is the second executive in the past three years to depart NBCUniversal over inappropriate conduct, as former vice chairman Ron Meyer left the company in August 2020 over an extramarital affair with actress Charlotte Kirk.

“I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret,” Shell wrote in a memo to employees on Sunday. “I’m truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down, they are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them the last 19 years has been a privilege.”

Gamble, who is based from CNBC’s Middle East headquarters in Abu Dhabi, covers energy, geopolitics and financial markets and is the anchor of “Capital Connection.” She also presents CNBC’s popular documentary franchise ‘Access: Middle East’, where she speaks to world leaders, international CEOs and philanthropists. She has worked at CNBC since 2010.

Two sources familiar with Gamble’s situation at CNBC told TheWrap that her contract was up and had not been renewed, a decision she learned of prior to her decision to pursue a complaint against Shell. Gamble’s attorney Suzanne McKie did not respond to a request for comment about Gamble’s status at the network, while a CNBC representative declined to comment.

Gamble was the last Western journalist to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin in October 2021 before the war in Ukraine. She has continued to cover the Russia-Ukraine conflict, speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, EC President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson live on CNBC. She was also the first international journalist to report live from Saudi Aramco following the 2019 terror attacks and the first journalist to speak live to a Saudi official following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Prior to CNBC, Gamble worked for ABC News and Fox News in Washington, producing news programs and covering national and international political events, including the 2008 presidential debates, election night 2008 and the inauguration of former President Barack Obama.

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Comcast President Mike Cavanagh Permanently Replaces Jeff Shell as NBCUniversal Boss

Comcast president Mike Cavanagh will serve as Shell’s permanent replacement while retaining his current title, an insider confirmed to TheWrap.

“Mike is a fantastic executive and operator many of you know well and he’ll work closely with each of the management team at NBCUniversal to continue our excellent momentum,” Roberts added. Cavanagh and Chief Financial Officer Jason Armstrong will lead Comcast’s earnings calls going forward.

“Think of me as being here for a while,” Cavanagh said Thursday on the earnings call, in response to a question about the permanence of the new management structure.

Cavanagh, who was named president in October 2022, joined Comcast in 2015 as the company’s chief financial officer after spending more than 20 years in the financial services industry. Immediately prior to joining Comcast, he briefly served as co-president and co-chief operating officer of The Carlyle Group, a leading global alternative asset manager.

Additionally, he served as co-CEO of JPMorgan Chase’s corporate & investment bank from 2012 to 2014, where he oversaw all investment banking, cash management, investor services and the largest global markets and trading business in the world. Before that, he served as JPMorgan’s chief financial officer for six years, helping the bank successfully navigate the financial crisis. In addition, at JPMorgan Chase and its predecessor firms, Mike held various key positions, including CEO of the firm’s Treasury & Securities Services division, head of strategy and planning, and chief operating officer of Middle Market Banking.

“While it’s unfortunate to have an unexpected change in leadership, I would tell you there is no reason for anyone to think we’re going to be revisiting our strategy as a result of that all by itself. We will obviously react as the environment changes around us,” Cavanagh said.

He emphasized that his priority taking over Shell’s duties is to “just settle things down and make sure the businesses and the business leaders and NBCU remain focused on the job at hand.”

“Into the first several days of this, that’s well under way, and I frankly don’t think the business is going to miss a beat,” he added.

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