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Top NBCUniversal executives take 20% pay cut amid coronavirus fallout

Universal Studios in Hollywood is shown. Theme park employees, who have already seen their pay trimmed or been furloughed during the pandemic, are not affected by NBCUniversal's latest round of cost-cutting.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

NBCUniversal is the latest media company to trim the salaries of top executives amid the deepening financial toll of the novel coronavirus.

NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell and about 15 of his lieutenants will take a 20% salary cut while rank-and-file NBCUniversal executives will receive a 3% salary cut, Shell said in a memo to employees on Tuesday. The cuts will take effect in early June.

For the majority of NBCUniversal’s workers, the cuts eliminate a 3% merit increase that went into effect in early March, just before the pandemic began roiling the U.S. economy.

Theme park employees, who have already seen their pay trimmed or been furloughed, are not affected by the New York media company’s latest round of cost-cutting. Neither are workers who make less than $100,000 a year.

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“We know that these changes are difficult, and hopefully we can get to the other side of this crisis as fast as possible so that we can resume our growth,” Shell said in the memo.

NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell has chosen to put Cesar Conde — chairman of Telemundo and the company’s international business — in charge of a newly-formed NBCUniversal News Group. The new division will put NBC News, MSNBC and financial news channel CNBC under the same roof.

Parent company Comcast Corp. reported earnings last week that were buoyed by a dramatic increase in customers signing up for high-speed internet service. However, NBCUniversal lagged behind because of the shutdown of key parts of its business. NBCUniversal’s first quarter revenue fell 7% to $7.7 billion.

Universal Studios theme parks around the world have closed and Universal television and movie production has shut down. Los Angeles-based Universal Pictures’ studio has delayed the release of new movies because theaters are shuttered.

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During Thursday’s earnings call, Shell alluded to the prospect of layoffs at NBCUniversal by acknowledging that the company’s workforce was probably too large “given where the environment is headed ... and we’re addressing that pretty aggressively.”

NBCUniversal has about 66,000 employees in the U.S. and abroad. The company has not said how many workers it has furloughed to date.

“I have asked my leadership team to work with finance and human resources to find cost savings in each of their respective businesses,” Shell told employees in Tuesday’s memo. “Some of the options are straightforward, like cutting travel and entertainment budgets or outside consultants, while others will be more challenging.”

Some of NBCUniversal’s traditional cable channels — which have seen their audiences decline due to cord-cutting — are bracing for further restructuring, according to knowledgeable people. NBCUniversal owns USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, E!, Golf Channel, NBC Sports and news channels CNBC and MSNBC.

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Beginning last month, Walt Disney Co. Executive Chairman Bob Iger declined to receive his salary and Disney’s Chief Executive Bob Chapek saw his base pay reduced 50%. Vice presidents at Disney will have their salaries cut by 20%. Pay for senior vice presidents and executive vice presidents will be docked 25% and 30%, respectively. The reductions took effect April 5.

Disney has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus crisis. It has furloughed more than 100,000 employees.

Rupert Murdoch, and his son Lachlan Murdoch, who serves as chief executive of Fox Corp., are not taking their salaries through Sept. 30.

The Murdochs’ top lieutenants, who include Fox News Media Chief Executive Suzanne Scott, will take a 50% pay reduction over the same period. Executives at the vice president level or higher will see their salaries reduced 15% from May 1 through July 31.


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