Executive Producer Jim Bell to Leave NBC Sports and ‘The Tonight Show’

Gavin Purcell will return to Jimmy Fallon’s late-night series as interim showrunner

NBCUNIVERSAL EXECUTIVES — Pictured: Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics, NBCUniversal (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBCUniversal)

Jim Bell, a longtime NBC Sports executive producer and showrunner of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” for the past year, is leaving NBC.

“Last fall, after executive producing a successful Winter Olympics in South Korea and the men’s World Cup tournament in Russia, the company asked me if I would become the executive in charge of production for ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ while I was also preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Bell said on Monday in a statement. “As has been the case for my nearly 30 years at NBC, I said yes to their request, adding only that I would commit for a year and we would review the situation at that time.”

Bell will replaced by Gavin Purcell on an interim basis at “The Tonight Show.” NBC Sports has not yet made a decision as to who will take over the network’s Olympics coverage, which has the 2020 Summer Games from Tokyo. Purcell helped get Fallon’s “Tonight Show” off the ground as a writer and producer, and was with him during his “Late Night” tenure as well.

“The past year with Jimmy and the terrific team at the show has been a blast, and I will always be grateful for this opportunity,” Bell continued. “But after serious contemplation, I realized I did not want to extend my time at the show. Those thoughts are part of larger ones I have been having about my career, and what has emerged for me is a strong desire to delve into something new — to build on my experience in news, sports, and entertainment so I can broaden and deepen my leadership role in the content universe.”

“Along with my Olympic colleagues, we have positioned NBC Sports for an incredible Summer Olympics next year, and so I believe the timing is perfect for me to forge a new path,” Bell said. “I will always look back on my years at NBC as an extraordinary chapter in my life, and thank the many talented individuals who have joined me in truly meaningful work around the globe. Right now I am looking forward to a great show in Texas.”

Bell has been with NBC since 1990 as a producer and has worked on every Olympics for the network since the 1992 Summer Games. He spent seven years as the executive producer of the “Today” show from 2005-2012, before moving to NBC Sports fulltime to lead the network’s Olympics coverage. He was named president of NBC Olympics Production & Programming in 2017, and last year took on showrunning duties for “Tonight Show.”

“Jim’s imprint at ‘The Tonight Show’ was substantial and will be long-lasting,” said George Cheeks, vice chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios, and who oversees late night for NBC Entertainment. “With his decades of production expertise, Jim was able to elevate our live telecasts to new heights and took ‘Tonight’ on the road and delivered shows that raised the bar. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward and thank him for his contributions.”

“We want to thank Jim for his numerous contributions to our NBC Sports and Olympic broadcasts, particularly since becoming the executive producer starting with London in 2012,” Mark Lazarus and Pete Bevacqua said in a joint statement. “He has been a part of every major sports production during his NBC career, and has led a team of thousands to produce the last four Olympics, helping to bring great success to the world’s biggest sports and cultural event every two years.”

“As president, NBC Olympics Production & Programming, he has overseen the significant increase in our ability to make every Olympic event available live online, as well as production enhancements that have kept our award-winning Olympic broadcasts on the cutting edge of the sports media landscape,” the duo continued. “Fortunately, we have a large number of experienced and talented people who have worked alongside Jim in the NBC Sports Group, and we will be making decisions about structural changes to the team in the coming weeks.”