NBC News president Andrew Lack has been named president and chief operating officer, NBC, effective June 4.
He'll report to Bob Wright, who assumes the title of chairman and retains the title of chief executive officer of the company. Lack will have over sight of most NBC divisions, including news, entertainment, MSNBC, the TV stations, operations, sales and affiliate relations, NBC Cable and CNBC. Wright will directly oversee sports and Olympics, CNBC International and all of NBC's corporate staff operations. Lack will also become a member of parent General Electric's Corporate Executive Council.
In a statement, Wright credited Lack with being "an astute manager" with a "keen programming sense. Thanks to Andy and his team, we're number one in news across the board and that's a very important component of our overall success."
Lack said he would name a replacement to run the news division within days of Tuesday's announcement and speculation focussed on Neal Shapiro, the news producer who transformed Dateline from the "faked footage" magazine (remember the GM Truck story fiasco?) to a four night a week franchise. While it's unclear whether NBC West Coast head Scott Sassa was a candidate for the job Lack got, both Wright and Lack told reporters that they hope he renews his employment contract, up this year, with the network.
Wright, who will soon celebrate 15 years as head of NBC said he will continue to be "extremely involved" at the network." This is the first time Wright has appointed a number two and on a conference call with reporters he didn't discourage the notion that Lack is the heir apparent.
Assuming things stay on track Wright, 57, is still a ways off from retirement however. As to the timing of Lack's promotion, Wright told reporters that partly the timing is due to the fact that he needs to devote more time to his duties as vice chairman and executive officer at GE, where he advises president and chairman-elect Jeff Immelt on communications issues.
And the plain fact of the matter is NBC has grown significantly over the years and another capable executive to help run it can only help, Wright said. Further growth-and not a sale of the network-- is planned: "We have our hands full but we'd like to do more," he said. Lack has been president of NBC News since 1993 and spent most of his previous career at CBS News, where he was executive producer of the magazine show West 57th and before that senior producer with the documentary series, CBS Reports. - Steve McClellan