For Cesar Conde, NBC’s News Chief, Corporate Polish Meets Partisan Reality

His performance impressed executives at NBC’s parent company, Comcast. In May 2020, Jeff Shell, then the NBCUniversal chief executive, put Mr. Conde in charge of the NBC News Group, replacing a veteran newsman, Andrew Lack.

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

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

Under Mr. Conde’s watch, the news division has expanded its digital efforts, and MSNBC and NBC’s flagship TV programs have continued to draw good ratings. On Friday, Mike Cavanagh, the president of Comcast, NBC’s parent company, praised Mr. Conde’s stewardship “during a time of transition” in media. “The performance of the News Group speaks to his great leadership especially during challenging times,” he said in a statement.

Some of Mr. Conde’s moves raised eyebrows in the NBC newsroom.

He arranged for lists of on-air guests to be forwarded to his office, so he could drop by and greet influential and powerful visitors. When George W. Bush was interviewed on “Today” in 2021 by his daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, Mr. Conde asked his office to forward his biography to the former president in advance, according to two people familiar with the arrangement. (Mr. Conde often speaks admiringly about his time working as a fellow for then-Secretary of State Colin Powell under Mr. Bush.)

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

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