Jeff Shell Ousted As NBCUniversal Chief With Cause Due To “Sexual Harassment” Of Employee, Comcast Says, Signaling Intent To Avoid Severance Payout

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell was dismissed “with cause” due to “inappropriate conduct” and “sexual harassment” of an employee, according to a new SEC filing from parent company Comcast.

As Deadline was the first to report, the employee in question is understood to be CNBC anchor and Senior International Correspondent Hadley Gamble.

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The “with cause” designation means the company will likely seek to avoid severance payments to Shell. Most executive contracts contain language stipulating different scenarios of how their separation from the company would be treated financially. Sometimes, as in the removal of Les Moonves as CEO of CBS Corp., there can be a legal battle over severance payment, though there was no immediate indication of Shell contesting the “with cause” finding.

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“Following a complaint that Jeffrey Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, engaged in inappropriate conduct with a female employee, including allegations of sexual harassment, Comcast Corporation retained outside counsel to investigate the allegations.” the paragraph-long filing says. “During the investigation, evidence was uncovered that corroborated the allegations. As a consequence, on April 23, 2023, the company terminated Mr. Shell’s employment with cause under his employment agreement, effective immediately.”

The company’s classification of the Shell situation as a sexual harassment case follows somewhat more ambiguous positioning of the matter. When Shell’s exit was first revealed Sunday in a short press release, it was blamed on “a complaint of inappropriate conduct,” and Shell himself was quoted apologizing for having had “an inappropriate relationship.”

A staff memo from Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and President Mike Cavanagh used language suggesting a more serious dimension to the case. “We built this company on a culture of integrity,” they wrote. “Nothing is more important than how we treat each other. You should count on your leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace. When our principles are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here.”

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