Ending months of speculation, NBC News president Steve Capus announced today he’s leaving.
Capus, who noted in his exit memo he’d been with NBC news two decades, had presided over the news division since ’05, when he was named to the post by then NBC honcho Jeff Zucker — who is now over at CNN, trying to resuscitate that ratings hungry cable news net.
Friday’s news was not such a surprise, having been a foregone conclusion in some news-industry circles since NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke consolidated the company’s various news interests under NBC Universal News Group and put Pat Fili-Krushel in charge as chairman in July 2012, meaning Capus no longer reported directly to Burke.
“It has been a privilege to have spent two decades here, but it is now time to head in a new direction. I have informed Pat Fili-Krushel that I will be leaving NBC News in the coming weeks,” Capus wrote in his memo to staff.
Until a replacement is found, executive oversight of “NBC Nightly News” has been handed over to Alex Wallace, who already oversees troubled primetime newsmag “Rock Center” as well as troubled morning infotainment show “Today” since the exit of that show’s exec producer Jim Bell.
Here’s the full memo from Capus, followed by Fili-Krushel’s e-mail to staff:
“Working in network news is not a solitary pursuit; it is the ultimate "team sport," in which success is derived from the collective performances of remarkable people united in purpose and dedication. I have seldom described my role as "presiding" over NBC News. Instead, I have viewed it as leading a collaborative effort to pursue journalistic excellence.
It has been a privilege to have spent two decades here, but it is now time to head in a new direction. I have informed Pat Fili-Krushel that I will be leaving NBC News in the coming weeks.
Of course, it is an extremely difficult decision to walk away from a place that has been the backdrop for everything in my life since 1993. Twenty years ago this month, I was handed my first NBC News ID card by Sharon Houston and Cheryl Gould. What a thrill for this NASCAR-loving kid from suburban Philadelphia who aspired from a young age to be a DJ at a rock 'n' roll radio station.
Instead of spinning records in a radio booth, I have thrived in some extraordinary newsrooms, working with talented teams: the NBC News Channel and NBC Nightside ... NBC News at Sunrise … TODAY… MSNBC ... The News with Brian Williams … NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw … and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.
Side by side, we have documented the historic, the unforgettable, and the exquisitely ordinary. We have been through so much together. Working overnights, weekends, holidays. Some of the stories we have covered were crushingly sad and others were simply inspiring.
As I rewind the tape, countless events come to mind: the morning the twin towers were brought down, and the day anthrax was discovered in our newsroom; subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the Arab Spring; China taking control of Hong Kong; the death of Princess Diana; standing in the American cemetery at Normandy on D-Day's 60th anniversary; the Gulf oil disaster; hanging chads and impeachment proceedings; the launch of MSNBC on cable and the birth of online news coverage; the unmatched spectacle of the Olympics, catastrophic weather events, and even a Ford Bronco chase.
Seven and a half years ago, Jeff Zucker asked me to take over the leadership of NBC News. It was the week of Hurricane Katrina, and I soon found myself in a helicopter with Bob Wright flying over the flooded 9th Ward as people were still being plucked off their rooftops. I left New Orleans with an even deeper appreciation for what David Verdi and Stacy Brady's field crews consider "just another day in the office." Many of these individuals put their lives in danger just to bring home stories that matter. I will always have the deepest respect for them.
Thanks to my immediate predecessors, Neal Shapiro and Andy Lack, this news division was in an exceptionally strong place when I accepted this role. From that foundation, we set a course for growth and transformation. Without question, this is a different news organization in 2013 than it was back in 2005. Along with my management teams and our corporate leadership, we have re-imagined and reinvested in this news division, expanded our portfolio of platforms and extended our reach. Every step of the way, we have been confident that whatever endeavors we pursue, we are almost certain to be successful because the individual and group talents here are second to none.
I am extremely fortunate to have received constant sage advice from my mentor and cherished friend Tom Brokaw who has set the gold standard to which we all aspire.
Stretching back nearly three decades, Brian Williams and I have forged an enduring friendship. It all began in 1986 at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and has resulted in a set of noteworthy experiences, amazing successes and a bunch of trips to NASCAR speedways. Working with Brian has been a blast.
Not a day goes by when I don’t miss Tim Russert’s boyish enthusiasm, steadfast support, and treasured phone calls, as we discussed everything from politics to baseball. The pain of losing Tim, Jeff Gralnick, David Bloom, Jeremy Little, Eric Wishnie and Mark Harrington from our ranks ... as well as my beloved mom,still endures.
I have tried to shield our journalists from the tough economic pressures hoping that would give each of you the running room to focus solely on a commitment to outstanding journalism. NBC News has grown in all key metrics -- from ratings and reputation to profitability. Through it all, we have earned the Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence six out of the last seven years. It's the premier TEAM award and, fittingly, it belongs to all of you.
MSNBC has gone from a start-up to an extremely powerful property on the cable landscape with substantial growth for seven years running. None of us who were there for the launch in 1996, when Brian was forced to hold up an atlas just to display a map, could have envisioned what MSNBC has become … but my “buddy” Phil Griffin and I view it now with tremendous pride.
Journalism is, indeed, a noble calling, and I have much I hope to accomplish in the next phase of my career. For the near term, I am excited that Sophia and I will trade this breakneck pace for watching a fast break develop in our sons' basketball games.
NBC News will continue to rest in your capable hands with the support and leadership of Steve Burke, Pat Fili-Krushel and, of course, Brian Roberts who has described NBC News as the "crown jewel" of the company. In the coming weeks, as Pat begins the search for my successor, she will be meeting with people throughout the division, and articulating her vision for the NBCUniversal News Group. In the short-term, Pat has asked me to help with the transition.
It is impossible to fully express how much I respect the people of NBC News. To call everyone "colleagues" has been a true honor ... but to call so many of you dear friends has been a true gift. Thank you for everything. I could not be prouder of what we have accomplished together.”
And here’s Fili-Krushel’s note:
“As you heard from Steve, after 20 years with the NBC News family, nearly eight of those as its highly regarded leader, he has decided to leave the company to pursue the next phase of his career.
Leading NBC's News' coverage successfully for so long, Steve has proven time and again why he's considered to be among the best in the business and has been recognized with some of the industry’s highest honors — including four Emmys and eight Edward R. Murrow awards.
His journalistic excellence has been demonstrated over the years on a wide array of stories. In the past several months alone he led NBC News’ coverage of the Presidential Election, Hurricane Sandy and the tragedy at Sandy Hook. NBC News is America’s leading source of television news and Steve has been a big part of that success.
Steve has been a friend, boss and mentor to a great many people at NBC News for a long time and we will all miss him very much.
Until I appoint a successor to Steve, I have created an interim structure for the NBC News division. Effective immediately reporting directly to me will be:
David Corvo, Phil Griffin, Elena Nachmanoff, Antoine Sanfuentes, Vivian Schiller, Sharon Scott, David Verdi, Alex Wallace and Sharon Otterman who also will continue to report to Phil Griffin on MSNBC.
Antoine, in addition to overseeing the Washington Bureau and “Meet the Press,” will serve as interim managing editor responsible for editorial decision making, Specials and Standards and Practices. Reporting to Antoine will be Cheryl Gould, Mark Lukasiewicz and David McCormick. Antoine also will run the Daily Share meetings.
Alex Wallace will add executive oversight of “NBC Nightly News” to her current responsibilities with “Rock Center” and “Today.”
Details about an event in celebration of Steve’s career are to come. In the meantime, I would like to personally thank him for his partnership over these past several months and for his many contributions to NBC News. I know you will join me wishing him continued success.”