NEW YORK (AP) – NBC Sports Group Chairman Dick Ebersol, who helped launch “Saturday Night Live” then later established the network as the home of the Olympics, has resigned.
Richard Carrion, the IOC executive board member who negotiates U.S. rights, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts confirmed the departure to him.
“He assured me they are 100 percent committed to the Olympics and the rights process,” Carrion said.
“It comes as a complete surprise,” he added.
A person with knowledge of the decision told the AP it came because of a contract dispute and did not involve the network’s bid for the broadcasting rights to upcoming games under its new partnership with Comcast.
The person spoke on condition on anonymity because the resignation had not yet been announced. Ebersol’s decision was first reported by The New York Times.
In 1975, as NBC’s director of weekend late night programming, Ebersol and Lorne Michaels conceived and developed “Saturday Night Live.” Ebersol returned to the network as president of NBC Sports in 1989.
The 63-year-old Ebersol’s dedication to the Olympics dates to 1967, when he temporarily dropped out of Yale to work at ABC as an Olympic researcher.
When NBC and Comcast merged earlier this year, Ebersol seemingly gained newfound power and resources with the additions of the cable company’s sports channels and money. The top spots in the new NBC Sports Group were filled with his colleagues from NBC.
The IOC is holding its auction next month for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Networks can also bid on a four-games package including the 2018 and 2020 Olympics, whose host cities have not yet been chosen. The IOC is hoping to surpass the previous $2.2 billion deal.
NBC has broadcast every Summer Olympics since 1988 and every Winter Games since 2002.
Ebersol became NBC’s vice president of late night programming as a 28-year-old, the network’s first VP under the age of 30. After a brief departure, he returned to “SNL” in 1981 as executive producer and remained until 1985.
He focused on his production company before returning to NBC in 1989.
In December 2003, Ebersol agreed to a nine-year contract through 2012.
What do you think of Ebersol’s resignation? Sound off below…
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)