May 5, 2020 - Economy

The new news boss of NBC

Photo illustration of Cesar Conde

Cesar Conde will become the chairman of NBC News Group — including MSNBC, CNBC and NBC News — NBCUniversal announced Monday.

Why it matters: His promotion marks the first time that a Latino has become the head of news for NBC, and people who have worked closely with Conde say he's one of America's most underestimated media executives.

Details: Conde led Telemundo's historic turnaround over the past few years, and before that helped make Univision a global Spanish-language news powerhouse.

  • "I think he's always been underestimated because he's young and brown and doesn't come across as a pushy person, but that's also how he got into the board of directors at Walmart and PepsiCo," says a high-level media executive who has worked closely with Conde.
  • "He has a global perspective of how the world works that goes beyond that which many of us executives in the media have ever seen."

Conde, 46, has a father from Peru and a mother from Cuba. He grew up in Miami, and became a high school tennis champion before going to Harvard, and then eventually Wharton School of Business. Along the way, he served as a White House Fellow for Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002–2003.

  • People who have worked closely with Conde describe him as being a savvy and thoughtful businessperson. "He's very flexible and calm," says one source. "He thinks deeply on things and doesn't make rushed decisions."

At Univision, he led the network's primetime newscasts to be competitive with some of the major English-speaking networks in ratings.

At Telemundo, Conde is credited with having brought Telemundo from being the second-place network to Univision to a break-out network.

  • One of his biggest accomplishments has been overseeing the network through its acquisition of World Cup rights from Univision from 2018-2026.
  • He's made investments in Telemundo's entertainment programming, modernizing telenovelas and developing original series for streaming companies.
  • Telemundo has also begun to pull ahead of Univision in weekday primetime with younger audiences, although Univision still beats the network in overall viewers.

The big picture: Conde's appointment comes amid a broader executive shuffle at NBC. On Monday the company announced that longtime NBC News chairman Andy Lack is stepping down and will transition out of the company by the end of May.

  • Under Lack, NBC News was accused of attempting to scuttle journalist Ronan Farrow's investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein. Farrow also accused Lack of downplaying an internal complaint about a rape allegation against then-host Matt Lauer.
  • Sources describe Conde quite differently: "He's not a micro-manager," says a source that worked closely with Conde for several years. "He choses his team, helps them maneuver, makes bets and he pushes forward. He really doesn't drink or party, he's not into schmoozing. He's very focused on work and ethics."

Between the lines: Conde's background will help NBCUniversal rise to the moment at a time when it has never been so critical to reach Hispanics, America's fastest growing demographic.

The bottom line: "The best thing that can happen for him is that they underestimate him as has always happened," says a source close to Conde.

Disclosure: NBC is an investor in Axios.

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