Don’t Slam The Door: Lauren Zalaznick Leaves NBCU, Jeff Shell Cleans Up

The senior digital executive had no operating role. Duh – that’s what everybody said back in February

Lauren Zalaznick leaving NBCU after merely seven months in her new, undefined position as a digital, cross-platform strategist for the cable and content giant confirms what everyone in town said when she got the role: it was a non-job.

If no great surprise, it’s still a real loss to NBCU. (“Everyone” being the collective TV industry voice that creates the wall of noise that often turns out to be true, usually about NBC, viz. Jeff Zucker, Ben Silverman, Bob Greenblatt.)

Also read: Lauren Zalaznick to Leave NBCUniversal

Zalaznick, they said at the time, was being pushed aside in favor of Bonnie Hammer, who took most of her portfolio. Zalaznick’s people strenuously objected, and pointed to hires that she was making to build a team around a digital strategy, including Lori Conkling, who joined as EVP of Strategy and Business Development.

But alas, the pull of reality was too strong. Zalaznick is leaving, insiders say, to pursue an “operating role” elsewhere, which is exactly what she’s been missing at NBCU.

Also read: Cesar Conde Named NBCU EVP, Resigning as President of Univision Networks

Those insiders say she’s advising a couple of start-ups, and investing in a couple as well. But she clearly feels like an executive without a portfolio, having informed CEO Steve Burke three weeks ago of her intention to move on.

The change in February solidified Hammer’s role. Zalaznick vacates a position that will be occupied by Cesar Conde, who has just moved over from Univision, and Jeff Shell, Steve Burke’s new guy running Universal Pictures.

Now new-hire Conkling will report to Cesar Conde, who is taking over Zalaznick’s still undefined role along with the also-amorphous “business development, strategic priorities and special business projects across the NBCUniversal portfolio of assets.” (Watch out, Cesar.)

Conde was appointed EVP barely a week ago, and it was unclear then if he had enough to do: now he has enough to do, inheriting Conkling, Tony Cardinale, Nick Lehman and Lenore Moritz from Zalaznick.

Shell is the other big winner in this scenario. Not only has he been appointed mogul of Universal, he is also now overseeing Fandango and Consumer Products, formerly under Zalaznick.

Steve Burke clearly has his way of doing things. He has his people, and Shell is one of them. (So is Hammer, for the moment.)  Zalaznick isn’t.

That’s what everybody said. Sometimes when it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s a duck. Quack.