Jeff Shell was fired as CEO of NBCUniversal after a host for one of the company’s news networks filed a sexual harassment complaint against him, a lawyer for the host said Monday.
The lawyer, Suzanne McKie, said her client, Hadley Gamble, a senior international correspondent at CNBC, had sent messages to NBCUniversal investigators documenting instances of harassment by Mr Shell.
The details were confirmed by another person with knowledge of the investigation, who also said Mr Shell had been dismissed for misconduct on Sunday and would not receive any severance pay. The person requested anonymity to discuss a personnel matter. Comcast, the owner of NBCUniversal, said in a securities filing Monday afternoon that it had found evidence corroborating the sexual harassment complaints.
Comcast said on Sunday, without specifying details, that Mr Shell would leave the company following an investigation into a complaint about an improper working relationship.
A representative for Mr Shell declined to comment on the sexual harassment allegations. In a statement on Sunday, Mr Shell said he had had “an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret”.
“The investigation into Mr. Shell stemmed from a complaint from my client alleging sexual harassment and gender discrimination,” Ms. McKie, Ms. Gamble’s attorney, said in a statement Monday.
Mr Shell’s ouster was an abrupt turn for the media chief, who had risen steadily through the company’s ranks over nearly two decades. He became head of studio operations at NBCUniversal shortly after Comcast acquired the media giant from General Electric and succeeded Stephen B. Burke as CEO in 2020. In that role, Mr. Shell made the difficult transition from traditional television to a growing but unprofitable streaming operation, but won credit for the success of the company’s film studio.
CNBC decided this year it would not renew Ms Gamble’s contract, which expires in 2023, three people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. Ms Gamble filed her complaint some time after that, in late March, the people said.
The dismissal of Mr. Shell sparked a flurry of follow-up meetings at NBCUniversal’s New York headquarters on Monday. Comcast President Michael Cavanagh, who was given de facto leadership of NBCUniversal, met with senior executives from the media division to discuss next steps after the turbulent weekend.
With Mr. Cavanagh gets NBCUniversal a leader with a lot of experience running major corporate divisions, but very little experience running movie and TV studios. He will rise to the challenge of leading leaders of the company’s news, film and TV businesses, who operate autonomously within their divisions.
Mr. Cavanagh, who was named president of Comcast last year, is the third person in company history to hold that position. Many insiders saw his promotion as a sign that Mr. Cavanagh is the most likely internal candidate to succeed Brian Roberts as CEO of Comcast.
Prior to joining Comcast in 2015 as chief financial officer, Mr. Cavanagh is co-chief executive of JPMorgan Chase’s investment bank and co-chief operating officer of the Carlyle Group, a private equity giant.