NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell has been ousted from his role after he admitted to having "an inappropriate relationship" with a CNBC anchor at the media giant, Comcast, the parent company, said on Sunday. According to Comcast, it decided to fire Shell, who was paid $21.6 million a year, following an investigation by an outside counsel.
According to reports, Shell allegedly had an affair with CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble, who is based in Abu Dhabi. The affair reportedly started more than a decade ago and continued until two years back before ending abruptly. According to an internal email, Shell's staff will now answer to Comcast President Mike Cavanagh, according to CNBC.
Secret Affair for Years
Comcast said on Sunday that Shell was leaving following an investigation by an outside counsel after a complaint against him. Shell also acknowledged his departure from the post. "Today is my last day as CEO of NBCUniversal," Shell said in a statement Sunday. "I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret.
"I'm truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down," the statement said. "They are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them the last 10 years has been a privilege."
According to Deadline.com, Shell had an affair with Hadley Gamble, a senior international correspondent for CNBC. A source told the outlet that the affair began 11 years ago and had continued sporadically for years.
Shell is married to Laura Fay Shell, a former employee of Zev Yaroslavsky, the Los Angeles County Supervisor. Shell has been with the company for more than two decades.
The source also said that the affair continued for years but the two broke up two years back.
Cavanagh and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a joint statement: "We are disappointed to share this news with you.
"We built this company on a culture of integrity. 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 and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here."
The Wall Street Journal reported that Shell oversaw the entertainment division of the media behemoth before departing, leaving Comcast's Peacock streaming service unable to compete.
According to the publication, Peacock added more than 20 million members in the fourth quarter but still lost close to $1 billion.
Shell served as chairman of NBCUniversal International from 2011 to 2013 before becoming chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment and NBCU CEO in 2020.
Secret Affair Exposed
According to the Deadline, the complaint against Shell was made recently. The matter was swiftly handled after reportedly going all the way to Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.
According to reports, the findings of the investigation were handed to senior Comcast executives last week.
Gamble had earlier gained attention when Russian state media said she was acting like a "sexual object" to distract Russian President Vladimir Putin, with some state media even speculating that she was part of a US "special operation."
The accusations surfaced when she interviewed Putin at a Moscow panel discussion during Russian Energy Week in October 2021. It was earlier reported that propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov accused the seasoned journalist of acting " behaved boldly, openly positioning herself as a sexual object" while Vladimir Soloviev said on his official radio program at the time that Gamble distracted Putin with her "sex appeal."
Olga Skabeeva reportedly maintained that Gamble must be a member of a US "special operation" to target Putin.
Gamble hosts Capital Connection from CNBC's Middle East headquarters within Abu Dhabi Global Markets. She covers energy, geopolitics, and financial markets.
She has also hosted the CNBC documentary series Access: Middle East, where she interviews global CEOs, philanthropists, and world leaders. The show's past guests have included Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state of the United States.
Gamble was the last journalist from a Western country to speak with Vladimir Putin in October 2021 prior to the conflict in Ukraine.
"Hadley is a passionate advocate for women in the workplace and their advancement around the world. She moderated the first ever women's business forum in Saudi Arabia and provided exclusive content to CNBC as the Kingdom lifted its decades-old driving ban," her bio on CNBC's website reads.
Shell is only the most recent media industry executive to resign amid scandal. Others include NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer, who left his position after disclosing that a former lover had threatened to extort him.
Last year, during an investigation into former CNN presenter Chris Cuomo, CNN President Jeff Zucker abruptly resigned after confessing a relationship with another employee at the news organization.
Les Moonves, the former CEO of CBS, also resigned in 2018 in the wake of numerous publicized claims of sexual misconduct.