SBD/May 26, 2011/People and Pop Culture

NBC Sports' Ken Schanzer Announces Retirement, Will Stay Through Summer

Schanzer was a close confidant of Ebersol's during his time with NBC Sports
NBC Sports President KEN SCHANZER announced his retirement to his staff this morning, writing in a memo to his department, "For those of you who've heard this before -- this time it's for real." The longtime NBC exec said he had come close to retiring twice before, in November '08 and July '10. Both times DICK EBERSOL convinced him to stay. "I stayed because Dick asked me to stay," he said. "When Dick left and Mark took over, I felt that it was an appropriate time." Schanzer has agreed to remain at the network through the summer to ease the transition to MARK LAZARUS, who took over as NBC Sports Group Chair last week after Ebersol resigned. NBC is in the midst of negotiating rights to Wimbledon and just starting negotiations for the PGA Tour -- two relationships that Schanzer has handled for years. "I'd like to be involved in getting those resolved favorably," he said. "I've dealt with both entities for a long time." Schanzer, who had been president of NBC Sports since '98, was a close confidant of Ebersol's and said he decided to leave soon after he learned of Ebersol's resignation. "I began having conversations with [NBC Universal CEO] STEVE BURKE almost immediately," he said. "Steve has been great and sensitive to what I wanted to do. I couldn't be more grateful."

CULTURE CLASH DOWNPLAYED: Schanzer dismissed reports of a culture clash between NBC Sports and Comcast that surfaced soon after Ebersol left. "I don't think that's what was in play here," he said. "The way they do things might differ by degree over the way we did things. ... But this is not a clash of cultures." It is not clear how Lazarus will fill Schanzer's post. "This seems like an appropriate time," Schanzer said. "This gives Mark an opportunity to put people in place who will be here for a long time." The departure of NBC Sports' top two execs comes just over four months after Comcast's acquisition of NBC gained regulatory approval. The resignations also come just a couple of weeks before the IOC plans to accept bids for the '14 Sochi and '16 Rio de Janeiro Games. Schanzer said he has a lot of affection for NBC, which has been his home for 30 years. "I love this place. I've been here for a long, long time," he said. "I'm going out with a great feeling for the place."

IRISH EYES ARE SMILING: Asked to reflect on his career at NBC, Schanzer brought up the Notre Dame deal that he crafted, which was a ground-breaking deal when it was signed in '91. "Notre Dame has become an extraordinary part of my family's life," he said. Schanzer said he started his career at NBC during the Reagan administration. He remembered one of his first meetings with late NFL Commissioner PETE ROZELLE. "There was a little voice inside my head saying, 'Why is he listening to you?'" Schanzer said. "I've gotten to live one of the most extraordinary lives. ... I don't have one scintilla of regret." He joked the only person who may not be excited about his retirement is his wife. "My wife married me for better or for worse, but not for lunch," he joked.
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