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Shapiro Resigns From NBC News; Capus Named Acting President

Sep 6, 2005  •  Post A Comment

NBC News President Neal Shapiro announced his resignation Tuesday morning after slightly more than four years in charge of the news division, which includes MSNBC. In a message to his staff, he wrote: “I’ll be here until Sept. 9, and it seems fitting to be spending my final days at work on one of the biggest stories of the year. For the past few months I’ve been conferring with [NBC Universal Television Group President] Jeff Zucker on all the promotions and announcements I have made, and I am confident I leave behind an extremely capable and experienced team in the front office and on all our broadcasts.”

Mr. Zucker named Steve Capus acting president of NBC News. The well-regarded former “Nightly News” executive producer was promoted to senior VP of the news division in June to succeed the retired Bill Wheatley.

“It gives me great confidence to know that Steve will be at the helm while we navigate these complicated times. Steve’s experience over the past two decades, within NBC News, is virtually unparalleled. He has touched almost every part of the division, having worked in the NBC affiliate system, NBC News Channel, ‘NBC News at Sunrise,’ ‘Today,’ MSNBC and ‘NBC Nightly News,’ ” Mr. Zucker said in an internal memo top the staff.

Although many staffers had hoped this would not come to pass, it became increasingly clear over the late summer that Mr. Shapiro made up his mind, and his exit was not a matter of if but of when.

A low-key leader, Mr. Shapiro came from ABC News in 1993 to be executive producer of “Dateline NBC” after it shot itself in the credibility foot by faking sequences for a story about the dangers of some GM trucks. He turned the newsmagazine into a multinight franchise that won awards and became a prime-time staple that ran in tough time slots.

He excelled at deploying his news troops for big stories, such as the war in Iraq, and who was credited with the glitch-free transition from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams on the anchor desk last November.

But when ABC’s “Good Morning America” made dramatic ratings inroads on NBC’s once-invulnerable “Today” show and when ABC’s “World News Tonight” began gaining ground on top-rated “NBC Nightly News,” Mr. Zucker increasingly stepped into the operations of NBC News.

After yet another change of executive producers on “Today” earlier this year, it became clear that Mr. Shapiro was not in sync with Mr. Zucker, who had been executive producer of “Today” during some of its most stellar years in the ’90s.

Then this summer there were reports that the network was searching for NBC News president candidates who would be capable of overseeing not just the news division proper and MSNBC but even CNBC.

In his message to staffers Tuesday, Mr. Shapiro said: “It’s important to me that my departure not be used in any way to diminish the accomplishments of this news division, whose record is the envy of the industry. As president of NBC News, we’ve worked together on some of the most important events of our time and seen the world change in fundamental ways. As for me, I don’t know what’s next, whether it’s at NBC Universal or elsewhere.”

An NBC News spokeswoman said Mr. Shapiro was unavailable for comment.