Steve Capus Out at NBC News

'New direction' for longtime division president

NBC News president Steve Capus on Friday announced that he is leaving the network.

In a memo issued to staffers, Capus said that while it is “an extremely difficult decision to walk away from [NBC News],” it was “time to head in a new direction.”

A 20-year NBC News veteran, Capus has served as the head of the division since November 2005. His tenure literally began on a stormy note, as he took the reins from longtime president Neal Shapiro during the week after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast.

“Jeff Zucker asked me to take over the leadership of NBC News…and I soon found myself in a helicopter with [former NBCU chairman] Bob Wright flying over the flooded Ninth Ward as people were still being plucked off their rooftops,” Capus recalled in his farewell memo. “I left New Orleans with an even deeper appreciation for what [the] field crews consider ‘just another day in the office.’”

Capus was initially tapped as an interim successor to Shapiro, who was at the helm during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and throughout the first 30 months of the Iraq War. Before he became Shapiro’s No. 2, Capus was a longtime producer for NBC News star anchor Brian Williams.

With Zucker in charge at CNN, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Capus may soon be reunited with his former boss. Just weeks into his term as CNN’s top banana, Zucker has already begun making significant changes, dumping the likes of Mark Whitaker and the James Carville-Mary Matalin duo.

At any rate, Capus’ influence over the NBC’s news operations had been much diminished in the past several months, after NBCU chairman Steve Burke last June appointed Pat Fili-Krushel to steer a newly created division encompassing NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. At the time, much was made of Capus’ signing a contract extension; as it turns out, the agreement amounted to little more than an exit package.

In a separate staff email, Fili-Krushel announced an interim structure for the news division, which will remain in place for as long as it takes to identify a successor to Capus. The departing exec will assist in the transition.

“Steve has been a friend, boss and mentor to a great many people at NBC News for a long time, and we will all miss him very much,” Fili-Krushel said.

In his 1,026-word memo, Capus took pains to thank and remember a number of former co-workers, including Tom Brokaw, Williams and the late Tim Russert.

“Journalism is, indeed, a noble calling, and I have much I hope to accomplish in the next phase of my career,” Capus said. “It is impossible to fully express how much I respect the people of NBC News. To call everyone ‘colleagues’ has been a true honor…but to call so many of you dear friends has been a true gift. Thank you for everything. I could not be prouder of what we have accomplished together.”