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NBCU Digital Dealmaker Jessica Schell Shifting To Film At Universal

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After nearly five years, Jessica Schell is leaving her post as SVP of NBC Universal’s digital strategy and business development to take on a new role in the company’s film division. Schell’s new title is EVP, Universal Pictures, business development and strategic planning. In her place, *Meredith* Ross, a manager in the digital strategy and business development division, along with Ben Decker, will continue to work in that unit, reporting to Salil Mehta, president of operations and strategy for NBCU (NYSE: GE). The move comes as the pending merger between NBC and cable operator Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) continues to wend its way through the regulatory process for a possible completion by the end of the year. The word that Schell is leaving the NBCU digital fold also comes a day after another digital exec, Chris Grosso, became GM of AOL’s homepage.

Schell officially started her new job after Labor Day. In taking the Universal gig, Schell has relocated to Los Angeles from New York. Before arriving at NBCU in January 2006, Schell spent over four years as a VP at investment back Allen & Co. Prior to that, she was a strategic planner at The Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) Company.

A major part of Schell’s job at NBCU involved handling acquisitions and venture capital. According to her official bio, she had a hand in leading all the major deals the company struck over the past four years, including the purchases of iVillage, Television Without Pity and LXTV.

On the funding end, she was credited with securing the financing from Providence Equity Partners for the launch of Hulu as part of the initial joint venture with News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). She also served on the board of the Peacock Equity Fund, NBCU’s venture capital arm. When she was at Allen & Co., Schell advised News Corp. on the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and managed Primedia’s sale of New York Magazine.

It wasn’t immediately clear what her focus would be at Universal, though it’s expected that Schell will again be directing major acquisitions and investments for the movie studio.

Updated: The official release came out this afternoon, and it looks like acquisitions will not be a major focus initially. At least for right now, she’ll chart the studio

17 Responses to “NBCU Digital Dealmaker Jessica Schell Shifting To Film At Universal”

  1. Look, it’s pretty obvious how Schell succeed. She is downright shameless is taking credit for stuff she had minor roles in; she attended one conference per week; and she ingratiated herself to a high powered executive who pushed her promotion.

    I know you people at Universal are pissed that you now have to educate your new boss, but deal with it. She’s done nothing illegal. She just has a high tolerance for a bad reputation.

  2. While I have never personally worked with Jessica Schell, I can say that she has a terrible reputation at NBCU and is known not for any successes, but for her unbelivably “short” workdays and taking credit for her peers’ work. While I wish her luck in her new role, I fear for Uni Pics because they need some good strategic direction by someone who understands the film business. And with no film experience whatsoever plus a questionable track record, I’m very dubious with Rick’s choice to fill Michael Joe’s very large shoes.

  3. Dear “Guest”- While it’s entertaining to read your posts, you’re truly a douche. Clearly (based on the fact that you know what time Jessica arrives and leaves work, which deals she worked on and the details of her involvement in each) you clearly work at NBC. Condolences for getting passed over for a promotion, and not getting this pretty plum job. There may be more constructive ways for you to deal with your personal anger and disappointment in yourself.

  4. priyapaul

    Hi Guest(1) – I hope you know you’re coming across on this as really pathetic. Your comments are dripping in jealousy and aggression. Did you get passed up on some promotion? Maybe it had something to do with your attitude? Get over yourself, whatever this Schell is like, a company is not a charity so will do whatever’s best for it’s bottom line. Clearly she has a fab education (Harvard) and some blue chip experience – who cares if it’s not all entirely experience in exactly the same arena? who wants job after job of the same sh*t? She’s been given a chance cos she has tremendous potential. that’s it doofus. and get some balls and post with your real name. Priya Paul

  5. The truth

    I worked with Jessica, not the best nor the worst. She’s smarter than 90% of the rubes at nbcu. Therefore EVP title makes sense. Savvy females in tech are rare; pulling down 400k to take a studio job at this company is fucking brilliant.

  6. It’s ironically efficient–a massive torpedo to an already sinking ship. Smart money says Comcast flips or at least guts that whole place. She’ll be driving the Xfinity truck in no time…to Ron Meyer’s house, probably.

  7. Jessica is a wonderful boss, a supporter, a mentor and encourages you to do your best…this is my experience and those who don’t know her should not pass judgement. Deragatory remarks at this time only spell out jealousy, so sad. Jessica will prevail because she is a hard worker, she is eager to learn and she has the courage to rise. Jessica deserves to be where she is and I wish her only the best.

  8. While I can’t speak to other people’s experiences or impressions, Jessica has been a phenomenal boss and mentor to me. She’s taught me an incredible amount about the industry and has always fought to give me exposure and help me grow as a professional. Jessica constantly amazes me in her ability to recognize and immediately understand important digital trends, such as the centrality of identity online or the importance of diversifying web revenues beyond simple display media. Jessica in my view has provided important leadership and insight to NBCU as it continues evolving its web businesses and making that difficult transition from digital dimes to digital dollars

  9. Smart girl. Not especially hard working, no real domain expertise or track record of successful execution. Could be charming but by and large not credited as a nice person or well regarded by most who worked with her. Definitely an internal hire rather than the best possible hire including external candidates. Still good luck to her.

  10. I love how some people always feel the need to opine w derogatory comments in the wake of other’s success. But then again, you don’t get to Jessica’s level without some dissenters. Anyway, I have been on the other side of the table from Jessica in numerous capacities in both senior operating and private equity roles and she is a phenomenal deal maker and is unique in her ability to not only understand the strategic and financial implications of a transaction but also to then execute within a large organization. Her network is also first class. Congrats to Universal on the great pick-up!

  11. Schell is the least deserving ‘executive’ to get this role. Nearly all her deals lost money for NBCU: Worldwide Biggies, PopSugar, iVillage, TV Without Pity. She had NOTHING to do with Hulu. She vaguely takes credit for all the Peacock Equity deals, but she doesn’t do the investments. For the past two years, no one knows what accomplishments she was responsible for as SVP of NBCU Digital Strategy.

    She has no successful M&A/investment track record and ZERO film experience. One must wonder how she got that head of film BD & Strategy job. This feels like a Ben Silverman hire, but at least Ben had previous successes he could legitimately claim. Perhaps this was a political hire, because this had little to do with merit or actual film production/marketing/distribution experience.

    PaidContent should do a better job vetting job accomplishment claims.

  12. Pretty amazing. Who’s pictures does she have? She played a junior role in the iVillage acquisition for $600MM (now worth less than $200MM?), had ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with Hulu and Providence Equity (bold faced lie), and was responsible for countless bad deals (a deal with a startup cost iVillage millions in a minimum guarantee – umm, isn’t that supposed to go the other way?).

    For someone who rolled into the office at 10am and left by 4:30pm for the last few months, certainly a nice soft landing! Meritocracy at it’s best!