Kara Swisher

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Top NBCU Digital Exec Lauren Zalaznick to Depart Company

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Well-known NBCUniversal exec Lauren Zalaznick, who has recently been working on the media giant’s growth into new digital arenas, is leaving the company, according to an internal memo.

A longtime veteran of NBCU, who is also one of its most high-profile women execs, does not have a new job as yet. But, in a note that just went out to staff, NBCU CEO Steve Burke said Zalaznick would continue to “consult with NBCUniversal on digital media content and technology marketplace trends.”

There has been speculation recently that Zalaznick might be in line to take over the empty seat at the top of Yahoo’s media unit, but she has not been tapped for that job as yet, said sources.

Yahoo or another Web content company would make sense, though, as a next move for her. Of all the top media execs at NBCU, Zalaznick has been the most interesting and well known in Silicon Valley, having made many efforts to reach out to the tech digerati. (That includes being interviewed for a Twitter board seat, said several sources, a spot that ultimately went to Peter Chernin.)

Zalaznick started out her career as an independent feature film producer, coming to the company in 2004 via NBC’s acquisition of Vivendi Universal. Once there, Zalaznick took over the once-moribund Bravo cable network and launched a series of shows that became both hits and pop culture icons, including “The Real Housewives” franchise (yipes, Lauren!), “Top Chef” and “Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen (thank you, Lauren!).

At different times, Zalaznick was also in charge of the Oxygen cable network, Telemundo, iVillage and the Women at NBCU effort.

Earlier this year, in a management shift in which all the cable properties were moved under Bonnie Hammer, Zalaznick was given the title of EVP NBCUniversal and charged with focusing on innovation, digital, monetization and emerging technology.

The amorphous job — digitally focused cross-company tasks at big traditional media giant are tricky (thankless, really), as you might imagine — still kept Fandango and Daily Candy under her purview. She also launched NBCU’s first data science team and created the NBCU Digital Council to coordinate its digital strategery.

I had heard rumblings of Zalaznick’s impending departure over the last week, which sources said was pending. As it turns out, sooner than later.

NBCU declined to comment, but here’s the entire note that Burke just sent out to the company about Zalaznick, which also outlines where all her minions (this is the company that owns the movie “Despicable Me,” after all) are headed:

I am writing to let you know that Lauren Zalaznick will be leaving NBCUniversal after 12 successful years working in a variety of leadership roles here.

Those of you who know Lauren well know she is one of those rare executives that combine great creative instincts with a true business orientation. Her contributions to our company have been significant and far-reaching, from cable entertainment to Spanish-language broadcast, from digital initiatives to new marketing campaigns. Lauren also has been an important champion for many of our company-wide initiatives.

Moving forward, most of Lauren’s current group including Lori Conkling, Tony Cardinale, Nick Lehman and Lenore Moritz will report to Cesar Conde. Russell Hampton (Consumer Products) and Paul Yanover (Fandango) will report to Jeff Shell. John Shea and the Integrated Media group will report solely to Linda Yaccarino.

Lauren will remain at the company to transition her current portfolio, and then consult with NBCUniversal on digital media content and technology marketplace trends.

I want to thank Lauren for her years of service. Her drive to innovate, her energy and her intelligence have made our company a better place. She has been an important member of our team and we wish her well in the future.

Steve


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