NBC Chief Jeff Zucker Out Ahead of Comcast Merger

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Jeff ZuckerJeff Zucker, the one-time wunderkind producer who rose to become chief of NBC Universal, is leaving the 'Peacock Network' ahead of the company's impending merger with cable giant Comcast (CMCSA).

In an email sent to colleagues Friday morning, Zucker said he made the decision because NBC Universal's new owners "deserve the chance to implement their own vision."

Comcast has proposed purchasing 51% of NBC Universal from its current owner, GE (GE), in a deal that would create a $35 billion content and distribution juggernaut. The merger is currently awaiting approval by the Federal Communications Commission, but is expected to go through and close by the end of the year.

"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," Zucker wrote.

Zucker has faced criticism for the NBC's ratings slide, which has accompanied the network's failure to replace long-running hit shows like Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office with new hits. On the other hand, the company's cable properties, which include Bravo, have performed very well, generating some 80% of the company's $2.3 billion in profits.

Zucker also presided over the company's disastrous -- and ultimately aborted -- attempt to schedule Jay Leno in prime-time, a decision which was reversed, leading the the acrimonious departure of Conan O'Brien, who Leno ultimately replaced as host of The Tonight Show.

Zucker said his future is uncertain.

"I don't yet know what my future will bring," Zucker wrote. "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."

Jeff Zucker's memo:

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.
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