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Key NBC executive Marc Graboff to leave the network

November 19, 2011|By Meg James, Los Angeles Times
  • Ben Silverman, left, and Marc Graboff were positioned as equals in stature and authority at NBC in 2007 when Silverman was hired to be the network's chief programmer and Graboff was elevated to the job of chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. Afterward, Graboff unsuccessfully pushed back against NBC's purchase of about a dozen of Reveille's projects.
Ben Silverman, left, and Marc Graboff were positioned as equals in stature… (Ali Goldstein, NBCUniversal )

Marc Graboff, president of NBC's West Coast business operations and the TV network's longtime consigliere, is leaving the company.

His departure will continue a dramatic makeover of NBC Entertainment's executive ranks since Comcast Corp. assumed control of media giant NBCUniversal in January. A few years ago Graboff was the top business executive running the NBC network, but in recent years his role had been diminished, particularly after the arrival of Comcast.

Graboff, who had nearly two years remaining on his contract, is planning to join a new venture outside of broadcast television, according to NBC and two people familiar with his plans. Graboff declined to disclose details.

"His departure is absolutely amicable," said an NBC spokesman Friday. "Since the transition is now complete, Marc wants to pursue the next phase of his career."

The timing of his exit from NBC has not been set.

For the last 11 years, Graboff was the point person for NBC's dealings with producers, writers and talent agents. He had signed a new three-year contract in August 2010, a few months before Comcast took control of the media giant.

Many had expected the lawyer-turned-executive to stick around to help the new regime navigate NBC's web of complicated relationships with talent. Through many NBC management changes during the past decade, Graboff had been the one constant.

Although well-liked in Hollywood, Graboff was not universally loved within NBC. For instance, he once alienated Bonnie Hammer, the influential chairman of NBC Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. The two executives clashed over business priorities but are said to have resolved their differences.

Graboff, a graduate of UCLA and Loyola Law School, has held key jobs in the TV industry for more than 14 years. Early in his career, he worked as an assistant to former top talent agent Ron Meyer, now president of Universal Studios.

Graboff joined NBC from CBS in 2000, just as former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker was taking over NBC's entertainment division in Burbank.

At NBC, Graboff became Zucker's go-to guy, negotiating key deals, including keeping the cast of "Friends" on the show for two years longer than planned. Because of Graboff's affable personality, Zucker often relied on him to be NBC's business ambassador and to deal with prickly personalities.

In 2007, when Zucker hired Ben Silverman to be NBC's chief programmer, he elevated Graboff to the job of chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. Graboff was positioned as Silverman's equal in stature and authority as both were charged with overseeing the network as well as NBC's in-house production studio. However, Silverman's tenure turned into a disaster.

The free-spirited Silverman quickly anointed himself the "rock star entertainment chairman," missed meetings and publicly bragged about his penchant for partying. He also lobbied for NBC to buy projects produced by his independent studio, Reveille, which he eventually sold.

Graboff's job devolved into one of chief baby sitter and referee. He unsuccessfully pushed back against NBC's purchase of about a dozen of Reveille's projects. He had to soothe hard feelings when Silverman ruffled feathers of key agents and producers. Graboff also attempted to be the peacemaker amid warring factions within NBC. Silverman left the company in 2009 without fielding a hit.

NBC continues to struggle to find new hits and lags in the ratings. "Sunday Night Football" is the only NBC program that consistently ranks among the Nielsen Co.'s top 20 TV shows.

meg.james@latimes.com

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