NBC chief officer Jeff Zucker, who rose from a researcher to become the architect of such successes as NBC's launch of Bravo — but also its messy loss of Conan O'Brien — announced Friday that he is leaving the company.
Zucker told The New York Times he plans to step down when Comcast's takeover of NBC-Universal is complete, and that the decision was inevitable after his meeting with Comcast's chief operating officer, Steve Burke.
"He made it clear that they wanted to move on at the close of the deal and I was completely comfortable with that," Zucker said.
The 45-year-old was hired by NBC in 1986 as a researcher for the 1988 summer Olympics. Three years later, he became a producer at Today, where he started the show's outdoor concert series and oversaw its move to studio 1A in Rockefeller plaza.
Zucker was named president of NBC Entertainment in 2000. The network's earnings spiked from $532 million the year he took over to $870 million in 2003, according to Businessweek. He oversaw the debut of shows like Scrubs and Law & Order: Criminal Intent and steered Bravo into a successful cable network. His occasional failures included the animated non-starter Father of the Pride and the Friends spinoff Joey.
In 2007, Zucker became the president and CEO of NBC Universal.
Perhaps nothing earned Zucker as much attention as his announcement early this year that the Jay Leno Show would move to the 11:35 timeslot, shifting Conan O'Brien's new The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien spot back to 12:05am. O'Brien objected, and eventually accepted a buyout from the network to leave.
Now Zucker, too, is on his way out of the network that made his career.
"I've spent over half my life at NBC. This is the only place I have ever worked. I've been here 24 and a half years. I met my wife here. My four kids were born while I was here. I've endured colon cancer twice," Zucker said. "It's going to be incredibly strange for me personally."