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Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, resigns after request

Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, is leaving the company following an investigation into an inappropriate workplace relationship, the company’s owner, Comcast, said in a statement on Sunday.

In the statement, Shell said Sunday would be his last day and that he had had “an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company.”

“I am truly sorry to have let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down, they are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them for the past 19 years has been a privilege.”

Comcast’s brief statement did not say who would replace Mr. Shell at NBCUniversal, which he has led since 2020.

But in a message to employees on Sunday, Comcast’s chief executive, Brian Roberts, said that Mr. Shell’s senior team would report to Mike Cavanagh, Comcast’s president, and put Mr. Cavanagh in effective control of NBCUniversal.

“We are disappointed to share this news with you,” Roberts wrote. “We built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than how we treat each other.”

News about Mr. Shell’s exit from NBCUniversal sent texts buzzing across New York and Hollywood, where he commanded Comcast’s sprawling entertainment empire. His departure comes at a crucial time for Comcast, which is navigating the difficult transition from traditional TV and cable companies to a future anchored by streaming video, broadband Internet and wireless services.

Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, has seen some momentum in recent months, but remains small compared to its peers. Peacock has more than 20 million paid subscribers, far fewer than Netflix (232 million) or Warner Bros. Discovery’s range of HBO Max and Discovery+ (96 million). Some of the major media companies’ streaming companies are still losing money, and Peacock is no exception. It lost about $2.5 billion last year and is expected to lose another $3 billion this year.

NBCUniversal also owns many cable networks, including Bravo, E!, MSNBC and USA, which are facing declines in traditional TV viewers.

The investigation of Mr. Shell began in recent weeks after the woman involved in the relationship came forward with a complaint, according to two people familiar with the timeline of the investigation. Mr. Shell continued in his duties while the investigation continued, taking previously scheduled meetings with lawmakers in Washington and working on other matters. Mr. Shell was also scheduled to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in Washington with his wife next Saturday.

The investigation, which was conducted by an outside law firm, was not publicly known throughout Comcast until it was concluded, according to three people familiar with the matter. Mr. Roberts and Mr. Cavanagh called managers who work directly with Mr. Shell this weekend to tell them that Mr. Shell would leave and inform them of the abrupt leadership transition.

Although not the biggest movie studio in Hollywood, Universal Pictures has been quite successful. Highlights from 2022 include “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: Rise of Gru.” This year started off even stronger, with “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” approaching $900 million in worldwide box office sales after just three weekends in theaters, making it the company’s highest-grossing animated film in its history.

Other highly anticipated films releasing this year include the 10th iteration of the “Fast and Furious” franchise along with Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated “Oppenheimer,” about the famous nuclear physicist. The studio has also started a flexible distribution strategy that uses a staggered rollout between theaters and its streaming service, Peacock, for bigger films. For smaller titles, such as “Marry Me,” starring Jennifer Lopez, and the horror film “Firestarter,” both of which came out last year, the theatrical and streaming debuts are simultaneous.

The company’s theme parks have also been a bright spot, with higher attendance and guest spending leading to record profits last year. The company plans to open theme parks in Las Vegas and Frisco, Texas, in the coming years.

The company will report quarterly earnings this week, a conference call that will be closely watched.

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