Jeff Shell was fired as NBCUniversal’s chief executive after an anchor at one of the company’s news networks lodged a sexual harassment complaint against him, a lawyer for the anchor said on Monday.
The lawyer, Suzanne McKie, said her client, Hadley Gamble, a senior international correspondent at CNBC, had given investigators at NBCUniversal messages that documented instances of harassment by Mr. Shell.
The details were confirmed by another person with knowledge of the investigation, who also said Mr. Shell was fired on Sunday for cause and would not receive severance pay. The person requested anonymity to discuss a personnel matter. Comcast, the owner of NBCUniversal, said in a securities filing Monday afternoon that it had uncovered evidence that corroborated the sexual harassment complaints.
Comcast said Sunday, without specifying details, that Mr. Shell was leaving the company after an investigation into a complaint about an inappropriate workplace relationship.
A representative for Mr. Shell did not comment on the sexual harassment claims. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Shell said he’d had “an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret.”
“The investigation into Mr. Shell arose from a complaint by my client of sexual harassment and sex discrimination,” Ms. McKie, Ms. Gamble’s lawyer, said in a statement on Monday.
Mr. Shell’s ouster was an abrupt reversal for the media chief, who had risen steadily through the ranks at the company for nearly two decades. He became head of NBCUniversal’s studio business shortly after Comcast acquired the media giant from General Electric and succeeded Stephen B. Burke as chief executive in 2020. In that role, Mr. Shell sought to navigate the tricky transition from traditional television to a growing but unprofitable streaming operation, but won plaudits for the success of the company’s film studio.
CNBC decided this year that it would not renew Ms. Gamble’s contract, which expires in 2023, three people familiar with the matter said on the condition of anonymity. Ms. Gamble lodged her complaint sometime after that, in late March, the people said.
Mr. Shell’s firing prompted a flurry of follow-up meetings at NBCUniversal’s New York headquarters on Monday. Comcast’s president, Michael Cavanagh, who was put in effective control of NBCUniversal, met with senior executives at the media division to discuss next steps after the turbulent weekend.
In Mr. Cavanagh, NBCUniversal gets a leader with vast experience overseeing large company divisions but very little experience operating film and TV studios. He will face the challenge of overseeing leaders of the company’s news, film and TV businesses, who operate with autonomy within their divisions.
Mr. Cavanagh, who was appointed president of Comcast last year, is the third person in the company’s history to hold that position. Many insiders viewed his promotion as a sign that Mr. Cavanagh is the likeliest internal candidate to succeed Brian Roberts as chief executive of Comcast.
Before joining Comcast as chief financial officer in 2015, Mr. Cavanagh held jobs including co-chief executive of JPMorgan Chase’s investment bank and co-chief operating officer of the Carlyle Group, a private equity giant.