In a surprise move, NBC has named Jay Ireland to head up its television stations division, replacing Pat Wallace, who will depart at the end of the month.

Wallace exits the Peacock just over a year after assuming the top stations post. The executive was not available for comment.

Ireland will report to NBC president and CEO Bob Wright, who made the announcement Wednesday. He segues into television from GE Plastics, where he’s served as vice president and chief financial officer for almost three years.

General Electric frequently shuffles executives around its different businesses. Wright, for example, had served as president of General Electric Financial Services before taking the helm of NBC in 1986.

“Jay is a seasoned GE executive with broad-ranging business acumen,” Wright said. “He has been a successful leader of GE’s prestigious Corporate Audit staff, Investor Relations and in a number of key GE Plastics operating positions. Jay’s management expertise, operating experience and financial background will enable him to succeed in his new leadership role for the NBC stations.”

Effective Dec. 1 Ireland will oversee NBC’s 13 owned-and-operated stations, which reach more than 27 percent of U.S. television households. He’ll have a hand in growing the division, developing programming for the stations and syndication and expanding businesses such as the station group’s online presence.

Ireland joined GE in 1980 with the company’s Financial Management Program in Lynchburg, Va., moving to Corporate Audit in 1982. He transferred to GE Plastics in 1988 and was named managing director of Polymerland-Europe, based in Holland, in 1990. The exec moved to Corporate Investor Communications in 1993 and returned to the Corporate Audit staff in 1990.

He’s headed GE Plastics, based in Fairfield, Mass., since 1997.

Despite the awkward timing, an NBC spokeswoman said Wallace’s departure was not related NBC’s failed $700 million bid for San Francisco affiliate KRON-TV. Station owner Chronicle Broadcasting announced Tuesday it would sell the station to Young Broadcasting, which offered a record $832 million for the outlet.

More likely, sources said it probably came down to differing visions on what direction to steer NBC’s stations business.

“Under Pat’s leadership, NBC Stations have continued to grow and outperform our competitors in most major markets,” Wright said. “We thank Pat for his 24 years of dedicated service and wish him well in the future.”

Ireland will be NBC’s fourth stations group head in three years. Wallace took the reins of NBC’s station group in October 1998, replacing Scott Sassa, who became NBC Entertainment president and eventually the NBC West Coast topper. Sassa had replaced John Rohrbeck, who left the top spot in 1997.

Prior to the stations job, Wallace was vice president and general manager for three years at NBC-owned WCAU Philadelphia. The exec also ran NBC’s WMAQ in Chicago. He joined NBC in 1974 as a computer systems manager.