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NBCUniversal Appoints Comcast Veteran to Lead Film Group

NBCUniversal, the entertainment division of Comcast Corp., shook up its film division, naming television executive Jeff Shell to lead the studio and moving long-time chief Ron Meyer to a new corporate role.

Meyer, 68, who oversaw films and theme parks as Universal Studios’ president and chief operating officer, becomes vice chairman of NBCUniversal, according to a statement yesterday. Donna Langley, 45, was named chairman of Universal Pictures, replacing Adam Fogelson, 46, who’s leaving. Langley reports to Shell.

Shell’s appointment puts an eight-year Comcast veteran atop the Los Angeles-based studio, seven months after it took full ownership of the business. Shell, 48, moved to NBCUniversal International with Comcast’s 2011 takeover of the entertainment company and previously oversaw the cable operator’s original programming.

Shell is “a Comcast guy by DNA and history, while understanding the film business,” Matthew Harrigan, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities in Denver, wrote in an e-mail.

Bringing a company insider to the studio “implies more genuine enthusiasm for film,” including a desire to exploit popular film franchises across Comcast’s business, he said.

Under the new arrangement, Shell reports to Steve Burke, chairman and chief executive officer of NBCUniversal.

“In Ron, Jeff and Donna, we have three of the most talented business and creative executives in the industry,” Burke said in the statement. “I have no doubt their collective strengths will help us continue to maintain our momentum and drive value at the studio.”

Box Office

Universal scored its eighth No. 1 opening of the year last weekend with “Riddick,” a science-fiction feature starring Vin Diesel that was released on Sept. 6.

The studio leads the industry with $1.31 billion in domestic box-office receipts this year, a 17 percent market share, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. Its hits this year include “Despicable Me 2” and “Fast & Furious 6,” which also features Diesel. Universal finished fourth in 2012.

Comcast fell 0.4 percent to $42.30 in New York yesterday. The stock has gained 13 percent this year.

A former president of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Cable Networks Group, Shell joined Philadelphia-based Comcast in 2005 as president of programming. After Comcast purchased NBCUniversal in 2011, he moved to London to become chairman of NBCUniversal International.

Murdoch Lieutenant

At Fox, Shell was a top lieutenant who Murdoch sent to Gemstar-TV Guide International, where he replaced founder Henry Yuen as CEO and led a review of the company’s accounting.

Meyer was the longest-running studio head in the industry, leading Universal since 1995. In the newly created role he will offer strategic guidance on all aspects of NBCUniversal, according to the company, which operates the NBC TV network, cable channels and the Universal Studios theme parks.

“There is no one in Hollywood like Ron,” Burke said. “He is among the most accomplished, experienced and well-respected executives in the entertainment business.”

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