Immelt: NBC's Staying Put

By Published on .

Most Popular
General Electric Co. Chairman-CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt was quick to dispel the notion that NBC Universal was for sale at a public appearance last week.

"No," Mr. Immelt said flatly when asked by Joanne Lipman, editor in chief of the forthcoming magazine Conde Nast Portfolio, whether there was any chance NBC could go on the block. "It's more or less just made-up stuff that people are talking about," he said.

The "made-up stuff" appeared almost simultaneously on two News Corp.-owned news outlets, Fox News' website and the New York Post. What gave the reports some credence is the fact that NBC is far from leading its category these days-a quality GE prefers in its business units. But Mr. Immelt noted that it's still a good business and is building some momentum. "Every now and then, companies need to fix things," he said. "The business is going to overachieve within the next few years."

The timing of the NBC-for-sale talk seemed odd, given that it appeared immediately after the long-awaited ascension of Jeff Zucker to CEO, replacing Bob Wright-and given that two GE execs had been cycled into NBC in the last year, Beth Comstock to oversee digital initiatives and Michael Pilot to oversee ad sales. And as far as Watercooler can tell, Zucker isn't known for his M&A skills as much as for his ability to perpetuate key TV franchises, such as "Today" and, when it was needed, "Friends."

Which brings us to another recent report Immelt wanted to discredit. Asked about New York magazine's report that former GE chief Jack Welch said he would have fired Jeff Zucker by now, Mr. Immelt basically shrugged. "I've talked to Jack since the New York article," he said. "He says he didn't say it. Even if he did say it, I don't really care. He's been gone five years."

So there you go. It's officially a new era at NBC. Long live the Peacock.
In this article: