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Corporate Polish meets partisan reality for NBC news chief

His performance impressed executives at NBC’s parent company, Comcast. In May 2020, Jeff Shell, then chief executive of NBCUniversal, entrusted Mr. Condé to lead the NBC News group, replacing a veteran journalist, Andrew Lack.

Privately, Mr. Shell acknowledged that Mr. Condé had a different background from that of his predecessor.

According to two people familiar with his comments, Mr. Shell said there are three types of leaders who run news organizations. “Journalists, politicians and businessmen,” Mr. Shell recalled the two people saying. “Caesar is a politician.”

Under Mr. Condé’s leadership, the news division expanded its digital efforts, and flagship television programs from MSNBC and NBC continued to attract strong audiences. On Friday, Mike Cavanagh, the president of Comcast, praised in the media the management of Mr. Condé “during a period of transition”. “News Group’s performance is a testament to its great leadership, particularly in difficult times,” he said in a statement.

Some of Mr. Condé’s actions raised eyebrows in the NBC newsroom.

He arranged for on-air guest lists to be forwarded to his office, so he could come and greet influential and powerful visitors. When George W. Bush was interviewed on “Today” in 2021 by his daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, Mr. Condé asked his office to forward his biography to the former president in advance, according to two sources familiar with the matter. (Mr. Condé often speaks admiringly of his experience as an aide to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell under Mr. Bush.)

Mr. Condé also retained his board seats at Pepsi and Walmart, from which he earned more than $640,000 in compensation last year, financial filings show. News executives generally strive to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Mr. Condé said he recused himself from any editorial decisions involving the two companies. (He is also a trustee of the Aspen Institute, which sponsors the Ideas Festival; in 2021, under Mr. Condé’s leadership, NBC News Group signed a partnership to become the institute’s media partner.)

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