Comcast Confirms Shell Set to Replace Retiring Burke

Comcast said that Jeff Shell will become CEO of NBCUniversal effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Shell, who has been head of NBCU Film and Entertainment, will replace Steve Burke, who will become chairman of NBCU and then retire Aug. 14 following the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Word of the transition leaked out late last week.

“Jeff Shell is the ideal executive to take the helm at NBCUniversal. He has a stellar track record across both the film and TV side of the business, as well as a wealth of international experience,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. “I have worked closely with Jeff for many years and he is an extraordinary leader who inspires loyalty, delivers strong results and cares deeply about our company, its employees and partners. I could not be more confident in his ability to lead NBCUniversal into the future.”

Shell will report directly to Roberts after Burke retires. Until then, Shell will continue to report to Burke.

“I cannot thank Steve enough for the incredible impact he has had on this entire company. I will miss Steve’s trusted partnership, and I know I speak for both myself and my late father Ralph when I say that we will be forever grateful to him for shaping first Comcast and then NBCUniversal into the great companies they are today. When Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in 2011, I never imagined it would become the fastest growing media company. Steve’s leadership and the team that he built has had everything to do with this outstanding performance,” said. Roberts.

Before becoming head of NBCU’s film and entertainment business, Shell was chairman of NBCUniversal International. He joined NBCU from Comcast after Comcast acquired NBCU. At Comcast, Shell managed Comcast’s national and regional television networks including E! And Golf Channel. 

“It is truly an honor to step into this role, and I am excited that Brian and the Comcast board are giving me the incredible opportunity to help steer the future of NBCUniversal,” said Shell. “I’m sincerely grateful to Steve, who has been an amazing boss and mentor for the last 15 years and leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of visionary leadership and success. I look forward to building on this strong track record and partnering with the many talented leaders across the company.”

Burke became CEO of NBCU after it was acquired by Comcast in 2011. Under Burke, NBCU’s earnings rose to $8.6 billion from $3.4 billion in 2018.

Comcast also credits Burke with creating a collaborative culture at NBCU. Burke designed a cross-company effort, nicknamed “Symphony,” where every NBCUniversal brand, in addition to Comcast, puts its promotional muscle behind a singular marketing priority.

Prior to running NBCUniversal, Burke served as COO of Comcast, following 11 years as president of its cable division. There, he helped grow the company into the largest cable and internet provider and led the successful integration of AT&T Broadband with Comcast.

Before Comcast, Burke held several leadership roles at The Walt Disney Company, including serving as president of ABC Broadcasting, and president and COO of Euro Disney S.A.

Burke serves on the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

“It has been a privilege to work so closely with Brian for the last 22 years, and particularly to have had the opportunity to lead NBCUniversal for the last nine,” Burke said. “ This is a very special company and I am proud of the people I have worked with and the things we have accomplished together. While this has been a dream job, it has always been my plan to hand off the baton at the right moment and move on to the next chapter of my life where I can pursue a different set of interests. It is great to know I am leaving the company in terrific hands with Jeff, who is the right leader to usher in the next phase of growth and success for NBCUniversal.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.