By Mrinmay Dey and Dawn Chmielewski
(Reuters) -NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell is leaving after acknowledging an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, following a complaint that prompted an investigation, parent company Comcast Corp said on Sunday.
“I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret,” Shell said in a statement.
“I’m truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down.”
Shell, who had been with Comcast for about two decades, leaves immediately. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The former chairman of NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment took over as CEO in 2020, replacing Steve Burke. He oversaw the media company’s broad portfolio of businesses, including the Universal film studio and television business, the Peacock streaming service and Universal’s theme parks.
Comcast did not immediately name a successor.
At a time when rival studios were investing heavily in streaming in a race to add subscribers, Shell adopted a more conservative approach.
Peacock, conceived under his predecessor, would preserve the familiar television business model – which relies on advertising – instead of relying exclusively on subscription revenue. The subscription approach has been embraced by Netflix Inc. , which long avoided commercials.
Peacock has made gains, though it is smaller than rival services. It surpassed 20 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2022, thanks to the FIFA World Cup and the addition of NBC shows. The division’s losses also deepened from a year earlier.
That is one challenge Shell’s successor will confront, along with the decline of the traditional television business.
Shell’s senior team will now report directly to Comcast President Mike Cavanagh, Comcast said in a company-wide email that was made available to Reuters.
“When our principles and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here,” Cavanagh and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in the email.
Comcast said the investigation into the complaint against Shell was led by outside counsel. It did not provide other details.
In 2020, NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer left the company after disclosing a settlement with a woman with whom he had a consensual affair years ago.
Shell joins other high-profile executives who have lost their jobs in recent years over accusations of improper conduct or sexual harassment.
In 2019, Warner Bros Chairman and Chief Executive Kevin Tsujihara resigned as one of Hollywood’s most powerful studios investigated a report that he improperly helped an actress obtain roles at the studio.
(Reporting by Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Rishabh Jaiswal; Editing by Deepa Babington)