Updated at 1 p.m. ET
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NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker said Friday he will be leaving the company when it is acquired by Comcast.
In a note sent to NBCU staffers (see below), Zucker said , "it is clear to me that this is the right decision for me and for the company. Comcast will be a great new steward, just as GE has been, and they deserve the chance to implement their own vision."
In an interview with the New York Times, Zucker said Comcast chief operating officer Steve Burke made it clear the cable company wanted its own management in a meeting two weeks ago. Until this point, Zucker had been maintaining that he expected to stay at NBC, despite persistent speculation that he would be out after the acquisition was completed.
"Look, I knew from the day this was announced that this was a possibility," Zucker told the Times. "I wasn't going to shut the door on anything. But in the last nine months it became increasingly clear that they did want to put their own team in place - and I didn't want to end up being a guest in my own house."
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts issued a statement wishing Zucker well in his future endeavors. "Jeff Zucker has devoted his entire professional life to NBC, and he has led the company with integrity and purpose," he said. "The success of NBC Universal puts us in a wonderful position as we plan for our joint venture with GE."
As CEO of NBC Universal, Zucker tried to emphasize the success of the company's cable networks and other assets while criticism focused on problems at the NBC broadcast network, particularly in primetime dating back to when Zucker ran the entertainment division.
"Do I wish we'd had more success at NBC Entertainment in recent years? Yes, of course," Mr. Zucker said.
In his note to staffers, Zucker said that Comcast "will inherit a company in very good shape, with almost every one of our divisions enjoying their best year ever. The current strength of the company is a tribute to every one of you and the terrific leadership team that is in place."
Zucker said he didn't know what his own plans were. "I've spent the last 24 years thinking only about NBC Universal, and never contemplated anything else. I haven't even begun to think about the next chapter," he said.
Zucker's email is below:
Well, the time has come. This time, to tell you a little news about me.
When Comcast assumes control of NBC Universal, I will leave the company.It has not been an easy or simple decision. I have spent my entire adult life here, more than 24 years. This is the only place I have ever worked. The only professional thing I have ever known. I met my wife here, enjoyed the birth of our four children in that time, worked in almost every division of the company. And forged relationships, both professional and personal, that will last a lifetime.I remember, vividly, the first day I came to work here in August, 1986. I walked to work at 30 Rockefeller Plaza that day; it was humid and my shirt was soaking by the time I got there. In the years since, I have enjoyed nothing but sheer pleasure in having the names NBC and Universal on my business cards. Sure, there have been ups and downs in the last quarter century. But when I step back, and think about what we've been through, I feel nothing but pride and joy. It has been a great run and I've been incredibly fortunate. Now, it is clear to me that this is the right decision for me and for the company. Comcast will be a great new steward, just as GE has been, and they deserve the chance to implement their own vision.I am proud that they will inherit a company in very good shape, with almost every one of our divisions enjoying their best year ever. The current strength of the company is a tribute to every one of you and the terrific leadership team that is in place.We'll talk more about the shape of the company in the months ahead. For now, I just wanted you to know my plans. I won't be going anywhere until the day the deal closes, and that day is still months away. There is plenty left to do, and we have an obligation to each other to maintain what we have already built. I will continue to approach everything we do with the long-term interest of the company in mind, just as I always have; I know no other way.I don't yet know what my future will bring. I've spent the last 24 years thinking only about NBC Universal, and never contemplated anything else. I haven't even begun to think about the next chapter. But I wanted to be honest with you about this news as soon as I could.I love NBC Universal. And always will. And I am grateful to each of you.
My most heartfelt thanks.
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.
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