At NBCU, Steve Burke to Follow Jeff Zucker as CEO

Comcast COO Steve Burke will replace Jeff Zucker, who is stepping down as CEO of NBC Universal, which the cable giant is in the process of acquiring.

The confirmation today by Comcast and GE that the well-regarded Burke would take the reins will fuel the already-raging speculation as to which executives will be seated when the music stops, including NBCU cable chiefs like Lauren Zalaznick and Bonnie Hammer. But Comcast at this point at least is planning to hold off on further announcements until the deal is closer to its conclusion.

It seems clear that Comcast believes the government will approve the merger within 90 days. Burke wants to be prepared with a new team before formal approval occurs.

But Comcast is awkwardly situated because the deal has not gotten the required federal blessing and because it is dealing with the sensitivities of GE, which will hold 49 percent of the company post merger.

Comcast and GE also will be in and out of quiet periods when they are legally precluded from making public statements in the weeks ahead due to earnings announcements and bond offerings.

At this point, the company’s posture is that Burke means to run NBCU with no No. 2 filling what had been the Zucker position. That would give him an extraordinary number of direct reports as the company is now structured but clearly further change is on the way.

In a statement, the cable giant asserted that Zucker would continue to serve as CEO until the transaction is complete, and that no other personnel announcements would be made until then.

“Steve Burke is an experienced, talented and visionary leader with over 25 years in the media and entertainment industry,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. “Steve is one of the most well-respected executives in the industry, and I am confident that he will lead NBCU forward to a new era of growth.”

The announcement was not a surprise given that Burke had notified Zucker two weeks ago that he didn’t have a future at Comcast once the merger is completed.