Jeff Gaspin Confirms Exit From NBCU

Days after his fate was leaked to AdweekMedia sister publication The Hollywood Reporter, NBCU entertainment president Jeff Gaspin on Tuesday confirmed that he would leave the company following its merger with Comcast.

In a note to NBCU staffers released late last night, Gaspin announced that his 19-year tenure would end upon completion of the deal, which is expected to close before the end of the year.

“As is his prerogative, [incoming NBCU CEO] Steve [Burke] has determined that he wants to move in a different direction,” Gaspin wrote. “Given the scope of my current responsibilities, we could not agree on an appropriate role for me in the new company. Therefore, I will be departing NBC Universal a short time after the merger.”

Gaspin oversaw all television entertainment assets at NBCU, including its wildly successful cable networks group, which includes the top-rated USA Network as well as Syfy, Bravo and Oxygen. He also managed the flagship NBC broadcast network.

Word of Gaspin’s ouster first began circulating late last week, following a meeting between the well-liked TV veteran and Burke. At the time The Hollywood Reporter posted word that he would be forced out, Gaspin was en route back to Los Angeles. Burke actually hadn’t delivered the news to Gaspin at the time the story leaked.

Sources close to the 49-year-old said Gaspin is crestfallen, as his efforts to pull NBC out of the doldrums had become something of a personal crusade. (Gaspin was saddled with the chore of cleaning up after the Jay Leno fiasco; the executive who precipitated that mess, NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker, will also leave after the deal is approved by federal regulators.)

In his memo to staffers, Gaspin said he would leave “with an obvious sense of sadness and loss,” before adding that he would remain “forever grateful for my relationships with my colleagues and those who gave me a chance to participate in the success of this great company. It’s been an exhilarating ride––and I thank you for sharing it with me.”

A new NBCU structure could be revealed as early as today, although sources at 30 Rock have indicated that a formal announcement from Burke may come as late as Wednesday afternoon. The new org chart will see all units reporting to Burke.

Moving to the top of the broadcast heap is ex-Showtime entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, who will take on a similar title at NBC. Also awaiting official confirmation from Philadelphia: the specifics of Comcast entertainment group CEO Ted Harbert’s new post. Currently the overseer of Comcast nets E!, Style and G4, the former head of programming at ABC is expected to work alongside Greenblatt, perhaps as NBC’s head of East Coast operations.

The cable group is not expected to weather significant changes, as NBCU cable entertainment/Universal cable productions president Bonnie Hammer and NBC Universal women and lifestyle entertainment networks president Lauren Zalaznick will continue in their respective roles, reporting directly to Burke.

Hammer oversees NBCU cash cow USA and Syfy, while Zalaznick skippers Bravo and Oxygen. Both execs will divvy up oversight of the incoming Comcast cable nets.

Along with Hammer and Zalaznick, a number of other bold-face names will continue to forge ahead in their current roles. Among them are: Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports and Olympics; and Steve Capus, president of NBC News. Mark Hoffman is also expected to remain as president of CNBC. As with the other unit heads, the aforementioned three will report to Burke.

On the advertising sales front, NBCU is expected to divide responsibilities among two senior executives. Comcast networks sales chief Dave Cassaro will assume responsibility of all cable sales––insiders also suggest that Cassaro has the inside track to manage all NBC Sports inventory––and longtime NBC sales exec Marianne Gambelli will steer all broadcast sales and marketing activity.

Sources have been mum as to what role current NBCU sales chief Mike Pilot may play in the decentralized structure. Old 30 Rock hands suggest that a major shakeout is in the works as Comcast looks to streamline that aspect of operations.

Pilot took the reins at the NBCU sales unit in 2006, after being shifted from his previous post as chief executive of the equipment finance group at GE.

As NBCU awaits official notice from Philadelphia, Gaspin reminded staffers of their shared successes. “While we have had our challenges on the broadcast side, I am proud of the progress we have made and the tremendous success of our outstanding cable assets, our strong distribution divisions and our market-leading digital innovation,” he wrote.

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