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Jeff Shell Out $43 Million in Stock After Comcast Termination

Jeff Shell has lost out on $43.3 million in stock options after being fired with cause from Comcast Sunday.

The NBCUniversal CEO, who was terminated following an investigation into a complaint filed by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble alleging sexual harassment, received a $2.5 million base salary; $7.5 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation, which represents annual performance-based bonuses; and $215,130 in “other compensation,” which included $202,755 for Shell’s personal use of the company-provided aircraft. But the remainder of Shell’s $21.01 million pay package for 2022 was forfeited upon termination, including $6.61 million in stock awards and $4.19 million in option awards.

“As previously disclosed, Mr. Shell’s employment was terminated with cause on April 23, 2023,” the media conglomerate stated in an annual proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. “As a result, he did not receive any supplemental payments or benefits in connection with his termination. He will receive only his accrued but unpaid base salary and vacation time, vested employee benefits and reimbursement for any unreimbursed business expenses in accordance with his employment agreement.” The company said the “estimated fair value” for the forfeited or canceled stock awards was $43.3 million.

In comparison, Shell received total compensation of $21.6 million in 2021 and $16.5 million in 2020.

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Comcast chairman Brian Roberts addressed Shell’s ousting during the company’s first quarter earnings call on Thursday, referring to the move as “obviously a tough moment.”

“But we are so fortunate to have a fabulous and tenured leadership team at NBC Universal,” Roberts added. “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.”

Roberts earned total compensation of $32.07 million in 2022, a decrease from $33.98 million in 2021 and $32.71 million in 2020. His 2022 pay included a $2.5 million base salary, $13.38 million in stock awards, $8.48 million in option awards, $7.5 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation and $206,127 in other compensation, including $196,127 for personal use of the company-provided aircraft.

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Comcast president Mike Cavanagh will serve as Shell’s permanent replacement, with NBCUniversal’s top executives now reporting directly to him.

Cavanagh received a total compensation package of $40.48 million in 2022, up from $27.36 million in 2021 and $25.25 million in 2020. His 2022 compensation included a $2.3 million base salary, $9.97 million in stock awards, $21.12 million in option awards, $6.9 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation and $187,124 in other compensation, including $177,124 for personal use of the company-provided aircraft.

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

He noted that 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 also 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.

Cavanagh and Chief Financial Officer Jason Armstrong will lead Comcast’s earnings calls going forward.

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The rise in pay for Comcast’s top executives comes as the company’s stock fell about 30% in 2022.

Comcast reported net income of $3.8 billion Thursday, or earnings per share of 91 cents, compared with $3.55 billion, or 78 cents per share a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, earnings per share came in at 92 cents. Revenue fell 4% year over year to $29.7 billion.

Shares popped over 2% during Friday’s trading session and are up approximately 16% year to date.

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