Observers have no doubt that General Electric chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt was a driving force behind the appointment of Jeff Zucker to the top management post at NBC Universal as the GE boss continues to put his stamp on the entertainment unit.
But what are Immelt’s visions for NBC Uni and his expectations of the man who becomes only its second-ever leader?
Digital growth, focus and assertiveness in a fast-changing industry — as well as continued financial improvements — are what Immelt, 50, likes about Zucker and expects him to deliver, according to the executives involved and Wall Street and industry sources.
More bluntly, some said to Immelt, Zucker represents the melding of a culture of creativity and the hard-driving GE culture that’s focused on performance.
Immelt’s presence at NBC Uni has been felt much in recent months, with a GE-style management restructuring occurring late last year and a handful of executives, like new NBC Uni CFO Lynn Calpeter and digital-media chief Beth Comstock, moving from GE to key positions at NBC Uni.
Then in December, Immelt tapped equipment finance division president Michael Pilot to replace network ad sales president Keith Turner. Pilot’s appointment was a marked shift from the old-school, TV-based approach that had ruled at NBC for generations; it showed that Immelt and GE want new blood and new ideas at 30 Rock.
It’s not unlike 1986, when then-GE executive Wright was appointed to lead NBC by GE chairman and CEO Jack Welch.