Allison Gollust was named head of NBC Universal’s corporate communications, the company announced Wednesday. She starts her new job on Monday, July 13.
Previously, Gollust was senior vice president of communications overseeing all of NBC News, including Nightly News, Dateline, Today and Meet the Press. She also oversaw communications for MSNBC, CNBC and The Weather Channel, which NBC, with partners Bain Capital and The Blackstone Group acquired from Landmark Communications one year ago for $3.5 billion.
Gollust joined NBC Universal in 1998 as a senior publicist for Today, when NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker was the show’s executive producer. There, the two formed a fast friendship, and their close working relationship remains in place today. Inside sources at NBC Universal say that’s likely what gave Gollust an edge in landing the job.
“To be successful in these jobs, you have to have a really great relationship with the CEO and understand their position and their approach,” said one NBC executive.
Gollust replaces Cory Shields, who was named executive vice president of global policy strategies and alliances on June 15.
Other contenders for the post were Rebecca Marks, NBCU’s EVP of Television Group Publicity, and Kathy Kelly-Brown, who once worked under Marks and then went to New York to serve as Shields’ second-in-command.
Marks was Zucker’s trusty and thorough press lieutenant when he was president of NBC Entertainment from 2000-2003. When Zucker returned to New York in early 2004 after being named president of NBC Entertainment, News and Cable Group, sources say he would have loved to bring Marks with him, but with her family firmly rooted in Southern California, Marks preferred to stay put.
Meanwhile, Marks played a major role in recruiting Shields back to the company, after he had departed for a top post at J. Walter Thompson in 2002. In 2006, Shields left his job as SVP at Sony BMG Music to return to NBC and head corporate communications just as the company was preparing to merge with Vivendi Universal. Upon returning, Shields worked for Bob Wright, then NBCU’s CEO, for a year. Shields remained in place when Zucker ascended to NBC Universal President and CEO in February 2007.
Kelly-Brown worked for Marks in Burbank before moving to New York in 2005 to replace Kevin Sullivan, who left to serve as the Bush Administration’s assistant secretary of education. Kelly-Brown will remain in her current job with expanded responsibilities, say insiders.
The two top contenders for Gollust’s job are Jeremy Gaines, vice president of communications at MSNBC and Lauren Kapp, senior director of communications at NBC News, according to sources.