Jeff Zucker Goodbye Memo: ‘With Comcast, I Leave You in Good Hands’

In message to staff, outgoing NBCU CEO accentuates the positive, noting revenues and profits were up last quarter

Outgoing NBC-Universal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zucker took a page from the Allstate advertisements in wishing the company's staff well. 

"With Comcast, I leave you in good hands and have no doubt that you will continue to do great things," Zucker wrote. 

Having received federal approval on Monday, Comcast's acquisition of the media company is set to close on Jan. 28. 

Zucker's departure was widely expected within the industry, particularly with NBC mired in fourth place among networks and a late night shuffling between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien that turned into a public relations fiasco. However, he did not formally announce his exit until last September. 

Zucker's contract with NBC Universal, earned him a base salary of $6.3 million and a guaranteed minimum annual bonus of $1.5 million.

The chief executive, who was often the target of scathing criticism from the media, chose to highlight some green shoots in the company's performance. He noted that for the fourth quarter, revenue was up 12 percent and operating profit rose 38 percent. 

"I have been asked many times what I will miss the most about NBC Universal. That's easy. The wonderful people of this company. So many colleagues…so many friends. I will miss you all," Zucker wrote. 

Here's the full text of the memo: 

January, 21
GE reported its fourth quarter earnings today, and as I always do, I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you our results. As we approach the end of a lengthy transition period and the start of a new NBC Universal under new leadership, I am very pleased to say that the company is in extremely good shape.

For the fourth quarter of 2010, nearly every part of the company delivered very strong results. Revenue was up 12% to $4.8 billion, with operating profit up 38% from last year, to $830 million. Up thirty-eight percent, purely from performance. No one-time gains, no sales of assets. Our operating profit performance equaled the best quarterly performance since the merger of NBC and Universal in 2004.

In short, a great job by all, and I want to thank each one of you for your part in making sure we kept our focus, discipline, and creativity under circumstances that have had their share of distractions. You helped me achieve my most important goal, which was to make sure we handed off this company in excellent shape. I don't think we could have done more.

Let me just mention a few highlights from our divisions in the fourth quarter:
As has been the case consistently for quarter after quarter, our cable networks continued to hit it out of the park. As a group, cable operating profit posted double-digit growth. USA was No. 1 among cable entertainment networks for the fifth consecutive year, Bravo posted its fifth straight year of record ratings, and Oxygen had its best year ever. MSNBC beat CNN in adults 25-54 total day ratings for the first time ever, and CNBC turned in a record financial performance, with an exceptional digital performance helping us get there.

At NBC, Sunday Night Football was the No. 1 show in primetime by far. NBC News continued its long run of top-rated programs, with Today hitting 15 years in a row without ever losing a week, and Local Media finished a great comeback year with a superb quarter, with ratings strength at almost every one of our stations.

Universal Pictures ended the year very strong, as well, driven by outstanding DVD sales of Despicable Me. And our Parks & Resorts team turned in its best quarter and best year ever, with record attendance on both coasts, behind two new attractions: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and King Kong 360 3D.

These are just a few highlights, among many. Again, every area of the company has much to be proud of.

Before I close, I want to say a word of thanks and congratulations to all the members of our corporate staff functions who have been instrumental in preparing us for the transition to a new owner. So many employees from Finance, Legal, Human Resources, Communications, Sourcing, Real Estate, Business Development and more have worked long and hard for many months and, as a result, we are well prepared to hit the ground running after the close of the deal, both operationally and functionally.

Special thanks to our Chief Financial Officer, Lynn Calpeter, who has held the finances of the company together through all of this work, and to our General Counsel, Rick Cotton, who has been tireless in his efforts, never more so than in the last few weeks as he has shuttled nonstop between New York and Washington to get this deal approved. And thanks, as well, to the hundreds of people who were called into service during the transition.

As you know, the deal will formally close next Friday.That means this will be my last business update and indeed my last official word to each of you as CEO. Over the last few months, I made an effort to gather with every group of employees across the company. Hopefully, I’ve had a chance to meet and thank you personally for all you have done for this company. If I didn't get to you, please accept my thanks now. I have been asked many times what I will miss the most about NBC Universal. That's easy. The wonderful people of this company. So many colleagues…so many friends. I will miss you all.

It has been a fantastic run of almost 25 years. For me, that chapter’s ending, but for all of you it’s an exciting new beginning. With Comcast, I leave you in good hands and have no doubt that you will continue to do great things. I look forward to following your progress.

With warm regards,
Jeff