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NBC Universal ousts CEO Jeffrey Shell over ‘inappropriate relationship’

Shell was reportedly involved with a CNBC international correspondent for more than a decade, with the affair exposed after a complaint.

Shell was reportedly involved with a CNBC international correspondent for more than a decade, with the affair exposed after a complaint.

Former NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell appears in an undated handout photo. (Photo by Broadcasting Board of Governors)
Former NBC Universal CEO Jeffrey Shell appears in an undated handout photo. (Photo by Broadcasting Board of Governors, Graphic by The Desk)

The lead executive in charge of Comcast Corporation’s entertainment and media division has left the company after an internal investigation revealed an “inappropriate relationship,” the company affirmed over the weekend.

Jeffrey Shell resigned his position as the CEO of NBC Universal on Sunday, a surprise move that concluded a career with the cable company that spanned nearly two decades.

Few details were offered by Shell or Comcast on the nature of the inappropriate relationship. It was revealed following an internal investigation spurred by a complaint, according to officials.

“I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret,” Shell said in a statement released jointly with Comcast. “I’m truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBC Universal 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.”

Sources familiar with the investigation said the probe turned up unscrupulous e-mail messages between Shell and CNBC’s Hadley Gamble, who works as the channel’s senior international correspondent. The relationship spanned more than a decade, but ended a few years ago. Gamble apparently filed the complaint that led to the investigation.

“You should count on your leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace, [and] when our principles and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take the appropriate action, as we have done here,” a memo penned by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and the company’s president, Mike Cavanagh, said. The memo was sent to employees at Comcast after Shell’s departure was announced.

Shell is married to Laura Fay Shell, who worked as a planning deputy for a Los Angeles County supervisor. It was not clear if his wife knew about the relationship prior to it being exposed over the weekend.

Comcast has not named a successor to Shell’s position. Until a replacement CEO is named, Shell’s immediate team will report to Cavanagh, the Wall Street Journal reported.

As the CEO of NBC Universal, Shell oversaw the development of Comcast’s media and entertainment businesses, to include the flagship NBC network; Comcast-owned cable channels like Bravo and USA Network; news channels CNBC, MSNBC and NBC News Now; Telemundo and the streaming service Peacock. His duties also involved managing Universal Pictures, DreamWorks and the Universal Studios theme parks.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).