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Less than a week after the company announced that it was ousting NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell over a claim of sexual harassment, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts addressed his departure on the company’s quarterly earnings call.
“Let me just acknowledge the news that you all saw this week. Obviously, a tough moment,” Roberts said to open his remarks. “But we are so fortunate to have a fabulous and tenured leadership team at NBCUniversal. If you go down the list, you will see that many of them have been leading their divisions within the company for at least 10 years, and are truly the best in the business.”
He also praised Comcast president Mike Cavanagh, who will assume more direct control over NBCU in the wake of Shell’s exit.
“We are also lucky to have Mike Cavanagh stepping in at NBCUniversal, while also remaining Comcast president,” Roberts added. “Mike is a fantastic executive and operator that many of you know well. He will work closely with the management team at NBCUniversal to continue our excellent momentum.”
Roberts went on to say that, going forward, Cavanagh will lead Comcast’s earnings calls.
Cavanagh, for his part, added that “while it’s an unexpected change in leadership, there is no reason to think that we will seek a change in strategy as a result. … I don’t think the business is going to miss a beat.”
“I’m going to be here for a long time and that is good for me and the company in the long term,” he added. “Maybe some day we’ll think there’s a better way to do it, and I will own the outcome anyway it turns out. But I’ll be there for a while.”
Comcast announced Shell’s departure Sunday April 23, subsequently reporting that outside counsel corroborated a claim that he “engaged in inappropriate conduct with a female employee, including allegations of sexual harassment.” The company said Shell was terminated with cause, suggesting that it would not pay out any severance.
Shell’s departure was a shock to most in the company (though not all within the company), with Comcast president Cavanagh assuming direct control over NBCU for the time being.
NBCUniversal had a strong first quarter, particularly in its theme parks and studios businesses, which were up 25 percent and 1.7 percent year over year, respectively. The company’s media business, which includes its TV channels, was down 2 percent year over year after factoring in last year’s Super Bowl and Olympics.
That being said, the advertising business continues to suffer, with ad sales down 6.1 percent year over year, excluding the Super Bowl and Olympics (as one would expect, with those events included, ad sales were down 39 percent).
At Peacock, which had been a priority for Shell, subscribers rose to 22 million, with revenue rising to $685 million.
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