Comcast Chief Brian Roberts Skirts Jeff Shell Ouster on Q1 Earnings Call: ‘Obviously a Tough Moment’

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Top Comcast execs made their first public comments on the departure of NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell Thursday, remarks that came as the company reported its Q1 earnings results.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts opened a call with investors by saying Shell’s exit due to an “inappropriate relationship” with a subordinate was “obviously a tough moment” adding, “we are so fortunate to have a fabulous and tenured leadership team at NBCUniversal.”

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Shell was forced out as CEO of NBCUniversal Sunday after an internal investigation into his relationship with Hadley Gamble, an overseas correspondent for CNBC.

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“When you go down the list, you’ll see many of them have been leading their divisions within the company for at least 10 years and are the best in the business,” Roberts said. “We are also lucky to have Mike Cavanagh stepped in to help NBCUniversal while also remaining president.”

Before handing off the mic, Roberts added that, moving forward, Comcast president Mike Cavanagh (who has taken over Shell’s responsibilities for the time being) and CFO Jason Armstrong will lead the earnings calls.

Later during the Q&A portion of the call, Cavanagh (who was promoted from CFO to Comcast president in October) said his new responsibilities upon Shell’s exit wouldn’t be prompting him to consider a strategy shift at NBCUniversal: “While it’s unfortunate to have an unexpected change in leadership, I would tell you there is no reason for anyone to think we’re going to be revisiting our strategy as a result of that all by itself. We will obviously react as the environment changes around us.”

Cavanagh noted that his top priority in taking on Shell’s oversight in addition to his own role “is to just settle things down and make sure the businesses and the business leaders and NBCU remain focused on the job at hand.” “Into the first several days of this, that’s well underway, and I frankly don’t think the business is going to miss a beat,” he added.

In a securities filing on Monday, Comcast said that the company received a complaint of “inappropriate conduct,” including sexual harassment. During the investigation, “evidence was uncovered that corroborated the allegations,” leading to Shell’s termination “with cause.”

Gamble is based in Abu Dhabi, where she anchors the “Capital Connection” broadcast. She has worked for the network since 2010. Her previous jobs included stints at CNN in Abu Dhabi and at ABC News and Fox News in Washington.

In a statement, Gamble’s attorney said that she had lodged a complaint against Shell for sexual harassment and sex discrimination.

“The investigation into Mr. Shell arose from a complaint by my client of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Given these circumstances it is very disappointing that my client’s name has been released and her privacy violated,” said attorney Suzanne McKie of Farore Law.

When asked by on analyst during the Thursday earnings call if holding the NBCUniversal CEO responsibilities alongside his Comcast president duties was “sustainable” and at what point the company might seek a permanent replacement for Shell, Cavanagh said, “I would put no timetable at all on [that], with no time pressure to do anything.”

“Maybe someday we’ll think there’s a better way to approach it, but I’ll never be moving far away from the businesses no matter what and I’m going to own the outcome anyway it turns out,” Cavanagh said. “So I think of me as being been there for a while.”

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