Looks like Jeff Zucker will still be running NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) when the new year rolls around. Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) and NBCU told their transition teams today that the continuing regulatory look into the proposed merger between the largest U.S. cable operator and the GE media unit makes closing the deal by Dec. 31 unlikely.
Despite considerable objection, including from the very vocal Sen. Al Franken, the merger still appears to be on track for approval but it also likely will come with strings attached designed to protect consumers from the consolidation. Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said via e-mail that the company believes DOJ and the FCC “continue to make substantial progress toward approval … However because of the lead time required to prepare for a close, it now appears that we will not be able to close the transaction with GE relating to NBC Universal by year-end.”
As a result, the companies are backing off a year-end closing, instead looking towards an as-yet-unidentified date in January. The delay leaves NBCU in a kind of active limbo, with Zucker and Jeff Gaspin, the chairman of NBCU Television Entertainment, continuing to operate and planning departures at the same time. It also keeps Comcast COO Steve Burke, who will head the merged unit, from implementing the plans he’s already outlined for a new NBCU executive structure. It also leaves an air of uncertainty about regulatory approval and the form it might take if it comes through.
The NYT, which first reported the delay, says the FCC order could start to circulate later this week.