Zucker set to remain CEO if deal is completed

As acquisition talks between Comcast Corp. and General Electric progress, all signs are pointing to Jeff Zucker remaining CEO of NBC Universal if the proposed deal for Comcast to take a 51% stake in the Peacock comes to fruition.

Informed sources have said for weeks that Zucker’s role, should the deal come to pass, has never been a point of contention between GE and Comcast. Reuters reported late Tuesday that the sides had agreed that Zucker would remain CEO but the composition of the board that would oversee the joint venture was still being negotiated.

Deal under discussion calls for Comcast to acquire 51% stake and operational control of NBC Universal from GE. Comcast would contribute its cable nets (E! Style, G4 and regional sports outlets) to create an enlarged NBC U, which is already cable-rich with USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC and other outlets. In a deal that values NBC U at about $30 billion, Comcast would contribute $4 billion-$6 billion in cash, and the venture would take on $9 billion in debt.

The deal talks are coming at a time when NBC U’s broadcast wing is struggling with steep ratings declines in primetime and latenight. The net is in the early days of its much-scrutinized experiment of stripping “The Jay Leno Show” in the 10 p.m. time slot. Industry insiders maintain that NBC is facing revenue hit this fall as “Jay Leno” commands lower spot prices than scripted programming, according to recent survey of primetime blurb prices by Advertising Age, at a time when the Peacock is having to give advertiser make-goods because of ratings shortfalls in other time slots.

Reuters also reported Tuesday that GE and Comcast had agreed that the final cash price tag for Comcast’s NBC U stake would hinge on the company’s financial performance at the time the deal closes.

The scenario under discussion hinges on Vivendi selling its remaining 20% stake in NBC U back to GE. Vivendi has had annual option to compel GE to buy back its 20% hunk ever since it sold the majority of Universal Studios to GE in 2004.

Reps for Comcast and NBC U declined comment late Tuesday.

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