NEW YORK — Robert C. Wright, a General Electric Co. executive with a background in cable television, has been appointed president and chief executive officer of NBC, GE's chairman announced today.
Wright, 43, replaces Grant Tinker, the chairman and chief executive officer of NBC, who is returning to television production work after five years as network chief. GE acquired NBC, currently the top-rated network, earlier this year as part of its $6.4-billion acquisition of RCA Corp.
John F. Welch Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric, will assume Tinker's title of chairman. The changes are effective Sept. 1, Welch told a news conference at NBC headquarters.
Wright is now president and chief executive officer of General Electric Financial Services Inc.
"We have a lot of momentum," said Welch, who was flanked by Tinker and Wright at the news conference on Phil Donahue's set.
'To Widen the Gap'
"This network is on a roll, we have a lot of money at General Electric; it would be crazy for us now not to pound home that leverage to widen the gap between us and the other players," he said. "And that is our agenda: to support these guys in every way we can, in as many avenues as they can, to take advantage of that No. 1 position."
The title of president, which Wright assumes, has been vacant at NBC since the departure of Bob Mulholland in 1984.
"What Bob Wright did at GE Financial Services is remarkably similar to what we are asking him to do at NBC," Welch said. "He took a dynamic, rapidly changing business in General Electric and increased its growth rate and broadened its base through acquisitions, partnerships, team building and creative, futuristic thinking."
Wright said his plans will be formulated gradually.
"My strategy will be similar to one I would use if I were taking over the New York Mets," Wright said, referring to this year's most successful baseball team. "I will stay with winning players, continue on a proven and winning course, and never for a moment cease to demand the excellence that Grant instilled in NBC during his stay."
Will Stay a Few Weeks
Tinker, who led NBC from third to first in the prime-time rankings in five years as chairman, said today that he will stay for a few weeks to smooth the transition but expects to depart by the end of September. Tinker earlier made his mark in television with his former wife, Mary Tyler Moore, and their successful production company, MTM Enterprises.
Despite working in New York, Tinker kept his home in California and commuted on weekends. He has indicated that he intends to return to production work after leaving NBC.
Brandon Tartikoff, 37, president of NBC Entertainment and the chief programmer, signed a three-year deal this summer that permits him to develop some movies, and assures creative continuity at the network.
The appointment of a new chairman not only symbolizes a new corporate era at NBC but also comes at a time when cost-cutting has become a way of life for the big three networks.