Lauren Zalaznick to Leave NBCUniversal

Lauren Zalaznick
Lauren Zalaznick
 

Lauren Zalaznick is out at NBCUniversal.

The 12-year company veteran was a top cable operator at NBCU, overseeing a female-friendly portfolio of networks including Bravo, Oxygen and now-defunct Style until February of this year. At that time, her channels were absorbed by fellow cable exec Bonnie Hammer, and Zalaznick was moved into more of a strategic role. With NBCU executive vp as her title, she was charged with accelerating growth for the company portfolio by identifying and executing on new business opportunities.

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“Those of you who know Lauren well know she is one of those rare executives that combines great creative instincts with a true business orientation,” NBCU CEO Steve Burke wrote in an internal memo announcing the news of her departure Friday. According to sources close to Zalaznick, who has been described as both a powerful tastemaker and a quirky intellect, she likely will return to an operator role of some sort. It's not clear exactly what that next step will entail, though she has been quietly dabbling in the startup space, where she is either advising or investing in a handful of companies. 

Many of her current NBCU responsibilities will be assumed by new hire Cesar Conde, who joined the company in mid-September as an executive VP reporting to Burke. (Exceptions include Fandango, which will be shifted to a film group overseen by recently promoted Jeff Shell.) Zalaznick will stay on to help transition her current portfolio and then will remain affiliated with the company as a consultant on digital media content and technology marketplace trends for a period of time.

In making his early 2013 announcement, which made Zalaznick more of a behind-the-scenes suit than the high-profile programmer she had been, Burke touted her as an exec who "loves ideas and new ways of doing things. She also is innovative, energetic and focused on growth." Over the past six months, her gig has entailed such things as establishing the company’s first data science team and forming the NBCU Digital Council to focus on the impact of emerging global trends. 

Driven at least in part by fear of losing Zalaznick or Hammer following the Comcast/NBCU merger, Burke had elevated both execs to chairmen and split the cable portfolio between them. Zalaznick, who was often credited with cementing Bravo as a destination for upscale females, with juggernaut franchises including The Real Housewives and Top Chef, added Style, Telemundo and Mun2 to her purview.

She joined the company in 2004, after the acquisition of Vivendi Universal Entertainment, where she had been president of the TRIO network since February 2002. Zalaznick launched her TV career at VH1 in 1994, where her on-air credits include included Pop Up Video, Divas: Live and the VH1 Fashion Awards, after a stint in the independent film world.

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Zalaznick's departure comes some three weeks after NBCUniversal made a series of high-profile executive changes. Universal Studios chairman Adam Fogelson was ousted as Comcast vet named Shell vice chairman, with former co-chair Donna Langley upped to chair and Ron Meyer named vice chairman of NBCU. Over on the TV side, the Style network got a surprise reboot (it's now the Esquire network), and the cable group reshuffled its execs. Jeff Wachtel and Frances Berwick added new networks to their portfolio, while former Oxygen president Jason Klarman was let go.

Below is the text of the memo Burke sent the staff.

I am writing to let you know that Lauren Zalaznick will be leaving NBCUniversal after 12 successful years working in a variety of leadership roles here.

Those of you who know Lauren well know she is one of those rare executives that combine great creative instincts with a true business orientation. Her contributions to our company have been significant and far-reaching, from cable entertainment to Spanish-language broadcast, from digital initiatives to new marketing campaigns. Lauren also has been an important champion for many of our company-wide initiatives.

Moving forward, most of Lauren’s current group including Lori Conkling, Tony Cardinale, Nick Lehman and Lenore Moritz will report to Cesar Conde. Russell Hampton (Consumer Products) and Paul Yanover (Fandango) will report to Jeff Shell. John Shea and the Integrated Media group will report solely to Linda Yaccarino.

Lauren will remain at the company to transition her current portfolio, and then consult with NBCUniversal on digital media content and technology marketplace trends.

I want to thank Lauren for her years of service. Her drive to innovate, her energy and her intelligence have made our company a better place. She has been an important member of our team and we wish her well in the future.

E-mail: Lacey.Rose@THR.com
Twitter: @LaceyVRose

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