NBCU Shake-Up: Andy Lack Out at News, Mark Lazarus to Oversee Entertainment

Andy Lack - Getty - H 2019

Telemundo chief Cesar Conde will now oversee NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC, while Lazarus adds oversight of Peacock.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell is reorganizing his senior leadership team at the company, marking the first major executive restructuring since succeeding Steve Burke at the beginning of the year.

Mark Lazarus, who currently oversees NBC Sports Group and the company's local stations, will now oversee the company's entertainment businesses as well, including Peacock. The new streaming service, which soft-launched for Comcast subscribers last month, is the company's biggest priority for 2020. Lazarus will become chairman of NBCUniversal television and streaming, a new unit that combines NBC Entertainment, the entertainment cable TV channels, the sports group, local stations and Peacock. 

“This is the right structure to lead NBCUniversal into the future during this transformational time in the industry,” Shell said Monday in a statement. “Mark has a proven track record across every aspect of our television business from sports to local stations to entertainment. He is the ideal leader to oversee our television and streaming portfolio in this newly formed division, which allows us to have a more unified approach to our content strategy.”

Meanwhile, Telemundo chief Cesar Conde will oversee NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC as chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, succeeding Andy Lack, who will be leaving the company at the end of the month. NBC News president Noah Oppenheim, MSNBC president Phil Griffin and CNBC chairman Mark Hoffman will now report to Conde.

Lack first led NBC News in the early 1990s and rejoined the company in April 2015 to steady the ship after anchor Brian Williams became embroiled in scandal. His most high-profile hire, for an eye-popping $69 million, was former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who struggled to grow her ratings as a 10 a.m. Today show host and had her show canceled after leading a discussion about blackface on her program.

Lack's leadership was called into question following the October 2019 publication of Ronan Farrow's book Catch and Kill, in which he accused NBC News executives — including Lack — of killing his reporting on Harvey Weinstein's alleged misdeeds. Following the news of Lack's departure on Monday, Farrow tweeted, "Andrew Lack is stepping down, after public protests calling for leadership change and a unionization effort within the company demanding more transparency about harassment issues there. Grateful to the sources who spoke."

Oppenheim had been expected to replace Lack as chairman of NBC News, having signed a new contract with the company last year. Instead, Conde will oversee the company's news operations, with CNBC being folded into the larger group. The business news operation had long been run somewhat independently from the rest of the news group from its New Jersey headquarters.

During Lack's first run at the company in the 1990s and early 2000s, he served as the head of NBC News, later becoming president and COO of NBC in 2001. In between his stints at the company, Lack served as CEO for Sony Music Entertainment and as chairman of Bloomberg Media Group.

Under the new entertainment and streaming structure, lifestyle networks chief Frances Berwick, sports president Peter Bevacqua, local stations chief Valari Staab, entertainment networks president Chris McCumber, Peacock chairman Matt Strauss and NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy will report to Lazarus.

The executive changes come as the company prepares to cut costs in order to manage the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic. Shell teed up the job cuts during the Comcast earnings call last week, telling analysts, “On costs, the question about whether we’re right-sized on costs given where the environment is headed, the answer is probably no, and we’re addressing that pretty aggressively."

He added, “And certainly over the next weeks and months, we’ll make pretty significant adjustments there across our business."