That was fast: Just two days ago, Andy Lack stepped down from the federal agency that runs Voice of America and other U.S. international media. And moments ago, NBCUniversal chief executive Steve Burke announced that Lack would be returning to the network as chairman of NBC News and MSNBC.
Lack previously served as president of NBC News from 1993 through 2001. “While at NBC, he presided over the News division’s unprecedented rise to number one, led by ‘Today,’ ‘Nightly News,’ ‘Dateline’ and ‘Meet the Press,'” notes Burke in his announcement. He worked as chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment and chairman of the Bloomberg Media Group.
The move bumps current NBCUniversal chairwoman Patricia Fili-Krushel to a “new corporate role” on Burke’s executive team. And NBC News President Deborah Turness will remain in her position, reporting up to Lack.
There’s lots to fix at the NBC News group, including the standing of the “Today” show, once the preeminent morning news program and now an also-ran. MSNBC keeps tinkering with its lineup in hopes of lifting its own dismal ratings. And the Sunday morning franchise “Meet the Press” has gone through years of underperformance and mismanagement, though it has made recent strides under host Chuck Todd.
Those considerations, however, will be side shows as Lack inherits the monster problem of Brian Williams, the “NBC Nightly News” personality who’s been busted for serial embellishments, to use a charitable term. After the slick anchor was caught stretching the truth about a helicopter ride he took at the outset of the Iraq war in 2003 — among other exaggerations — Williams was suspended for six months, a wilderness exposure that’ll expire in the summertime.
Much has been made of the close connection between Lack and Williams — who worked closely together during Lack’s first run at NBC — fueling speculation that the new chairman will simply re-install the credibility-challenged anchor to his beloved chair. Yet that call will default to Burke, the CEO of NBCUniversal. There are a lot of rungs at the top of big-time network television, and even more so with this move.
MEMO from NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke:
I want to let you know about some changes we are making within the NBCUniversal News Group. Andy Lack is returning to the company as Chairman, NBC News and MSNBC. Andy will join our Executive Committee and report directly to me. He will begin in April.
Pat Fili-Krushel, who has been one of my most trusted advisors since she joined NBCUniversal four years ago, will move into a new corporate role on my executive team.
Andy is an accomplished journalist who began his award-winning news career in 1976 at CBS and rose through the newsroom ranks until he joined NBC News as President in 1993. While at NBC, he presided over the News division’s unprecedented rise to number one, led by “Today,” “Nightly News,” “Dateline” and “Meet the Press.”
In 2001 Andy was promoted to President and COO of NBC, where he was responsible for news, entertainment, TV stations, MSNBC and CNBC. Andy’s executive leadership also includes six years as CEO and Chairman of the Bloomberg Media Group, before leaving in September of 2014 to assume his most recent position as CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Prior to that, he was CEO and Chairman of Sony Music Entertainment.
Andy’s experience and familiarity with our company and specifically the news division will be critical to our growth and future success. Deborah Turness, President of NBC News and Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC will both report to Andy. Mark Hoffman, President of CNBC, and Andy will work closely to ensure that where appropriate CNBC will leverage the strength of the News Group portfolio. Mark will continue on the Executive Committee and report to me. All of Pat’s other direct reports will report to Andy.
When we created the News Group in 2011, I asked Pat to run it in order to maximize the combined strength of our portfolio as audiences fundamentally change the way they consume news. In that time Pat has helped position the organization for future growth by integrating television and digital, creating innovative partnerships, and modernizing the tools and technology we use to gather and deliver news. As she approaches three years in the role, I have asked Pat to return to my team and work directly with me again as she did before she took on her news responsibilities. I am grateful to Pat for her work and accomplishments at the NBCUniversal News Group and for helping to identify Andy as her successor. I look forward to having her back on the 51st floor.
Please join me in welcoming Andy back to our company and in thanking Pat.