On Sunday, April 23, the entertainment industry was shocked to learn that the president of NBCUniversal, Jeff Shell, would be resigning, effective immediately. The resignation came about after an investigation was conducted, and it was determined that Shell had engaged in an “inappropriate relationship”. It was not said who he was involved in the relationship with. Both Shell and Comcast — the parent company of Universal — agreed that it would be best if Shell were no longer a part of the company.
Mr. Shell and Comcast released a joint statement announcing Shell’s departure. The memo was shared with The Hollywood Reporter:
“I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret,” Shell said in his own statement. “I’m truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down, they are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them the last 19 years has been a privilege.”
“We are disappointed to share this news with you. We built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than how we treat each other,” the memo adds. “You should count on your leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace. When our principles and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here.”
“Please know that NBCUniversal is performing extremely well operationally and financially, and we couldn’t be more enthusiastic about our position and prospects going forward,” it continues. “We are fortunate to have an experienced, world-class group of executives leading this incredible company.”
Shell took over as CEO of NBCUniversal in January 2020 and helped the company successfully navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. He was also one of the key players in the potential deal for NBCUniversal to sell its stake in Hulu to Disney. Disney currently owns 67% of Hulu and Comcast/Universal owns the other 33%. There is a deal in place where Universal can require Disney to purchase its stake in Hulu as early as 2024.
Disney and Universal have been indicating that they both want to complete the deal. Now-fired Disney CEO Bob Chapek made it clear that he wanted Disney to own Hulu outright. Back in December 2022, Mr. Shell spoke at UBS’ Global TMT Conference and said that he believes Disney will end up writing a “big check” to Comcast to get the Hulu deal done.
Not only was Hollywood shocked when Shell’s departure was announced, but so were many people within Universal. It appears that some of them did not know that outside counsel had been brought in to investigate the NBCUniversal CEO’s inappropriate conduct. And, if they did know, they did not think that it would lead to Shell’s departure.
According to Comcast CEO, Brian Roberts, those who were reporting to Shell will now be reporting directly to Comcast President, Mike Cavanagh.