A top Comcast official eyed to help run Tribune Co.

Posted: August 26, 2010

The top programming executive at Comcast Corp. in Philadelphia, former News Corp. executive Jeff Shell, is being considered for a role at Tribune Co., the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times and the owner of more than 20 television stations.

Shell, 44, would run the broadcast-TV and newspaper company, which is reorganizing in Bankruptcy Court, with former Walt Disney Co. chief executive officer Michael D. Eisner, 68. Shell also held positions at Disney and Salomon Bros. Inc. His and Eisner's potential involvement at Tribune Co. were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy in late 2008, laden with billions of dollars in debt from a failed buyout led by real estate mogul Sam Zell.

Shell, a native of Los Angeles, has told colleagues he is happy in Philadelphia. "I am happy at Comcast and hope and expect to stay after the NBCU transaction," he said in a statement Thursday. In December, Comcast announced a deal to acquire a controlling stake in NBC Universal Inc., the entertainment and news giant.

Details on the corporate structure of Comcast-NBCU could be disclosed in the fall. The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission are evaluating the merger for anticompetitive concerns and public benefits. Steve Burke, the No. 2 Comcast executive, will oversee the merged company.

Shell joined Comcast five years ago and has been highly regarded for, among other things, improving the quality of Comcast's 24-hour sports channel, Versus; boosting the profitability and ratings of the flagship E! Entertainment channel; and tripling the size of Comcast's regional sports network businesses.

Comcast's other channels include Style, G4, and the Golf Channel. The cable giant's programming segment produced revenue of about $1.5 billion and operating income of $389 million in 2009.

Besides TV and newspapers, Tribune Co. has financial interests in cable channels and digital businesses. Those who know Shell say he is a fan of newspapers as brands and an executive who can improve the operations of media businesses.

Contact staff writer Bob Fernandez

at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com.

comments powered by Disqus