NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell was fired from Comcast on Sunday following what’s being described as “an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company,” Adweek reports.
That woman is CNBC International anchor and senior correspondent Hadley Gamble, her lawyer confirmed Monday to the Wall Street Journal.
In late March, Gamble filed a sexual harassment and sex discrimination complaint to the parent company, which then hired outside counsel to begin an investigation into the complaint. The investigation lasted for a little more than a month, CNBC reports.
“The investigation into Mr. Shell arose from a complaint by my client of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Given these circumstances, it is very disappointing that my client’s name has been released and her privacy violated,” said Suzanne McKie, a managing partner of Farore Law, a U.K-based firm.
Gamble produced messages to investigators that documented examples of harassment by Shell.
She is based out of CNBC’s Middle East bureau in Abu Dhabi and covers energy, geopolitics, and financial markets for the business news outlet.
The New York Times reported that earlier this year, CNBC decided it would not renew Gamble’s contract, which expires in 2023, citing three people familiar with the matter. Gamble filed her complaint sometime after that.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Comcast president Mike Cavanagh wrote in a note to all employees that they were “disappointed” to share the news of Shell’s exit. Cavanagh will be assuming Shell’s duties at NBCUniversal on an interim basis.
“We built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than how we treat each other. 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,” the internal memo read.
In a statement of his own, Shell said, “Today is my last day as CEO of NBCUniversal. I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret. 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.”
Comcast’s decision to terminate Shell’s employment “with cause” means he won’t be able to receive severance.
Formerly the head of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Shell succeeded Steve Burke as CEO of NBCUniversal in January 2020. He oversaw the company’s theme parks, NBC, NBC Sports, NBCUniversal News Group, NBC O&Os and Peacock.
The internal candidate list for the top role at NBCU will most certainly include NBCUniversal Television & Streaming chief Mark Lazarus (considering Peacock is increasingly important to Comcast and NBCU), Universal Filmed Entertainment chair (and Shell’s successor in the role) Donna Langley, head of global advertising and partnerships Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal News Group chair Cesar Conde, Universal Studios Group chair Pearlena Igbokwe, Universal Destinations & Experiences chief Mark Woodbury, and would one assume Cavanagh.