Shocking the TV sports programming world, longtime sports TV executive Dick Ebersol, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, has resigned.
Running NBC Sports programming since 1989, Ebersol was known in recent years for focusing on the high-profile -- and until recently, profitable -- Olympics franchise.
Veteran sports TV executive and currently president of the NBC Sports Group Mark Lazarus takes over as chairman.
No reason was given for Ebersol's departure, but reports suggest he had a major contract dispute with current NBC Universal CEO/EVP of Comcast Corp. Steve Burke. Burke stated: "Dick Ebersol is an incredible talent whose contributions to the company over the last four decades in sports, news and entertainment are unsurpassed."
Burke went on to note that Ebersol has produced everything from the Olympics and "Sunday Night Football" to the Triple Crown, NHL games and major golf and tennis events.
In an earlier life as an NBC executive, Ebersol helped create "Saturday Night Live."
Ebersol stated: "I have always said this business is about relationships, and I have been fortunate enough to have more deep and meaningful friendships than any man could imagine."
The news of Ebersol's departure is a sudden one. Earlier this week at NBC's upfront presentation, Ebersol touted NBC Sports efforts -- and the Olympics' continued TV programming and marketing events. He also threw out the obligatory NFL footballs to advertising executives.
Ebersol's association with the Olympics has been his biggest success for NBC over the last few decades. In recent years, Olympics broadcasts have given NBC sharp viewership gains over regular prime-time fare. This has been one the key positive stories for the network.
But the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 was the first event to lose money -- around $220 million. Ebersol blamed a still-lingering recession for the weakened ad revenue results. Analysts say the Summer Olympics in London next year will also lose money for the network.
All this comes as NBC is about to bid on the next round of Olympics Games -- the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia and the 2016 Summer games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many expect bids to continue to rise past the $2.2 billion deal that NBC made for the last two Olympics packages -- Vancouver and London -- a deal that was much higher than other bids.
This also comes just four months after Comcast took control of NBC Universal. After the Comcast takeover, Ebersol started up the NBC Sports Group, which includes Comcast-owned channels Versus and Golf Channel, as well as regional sports networks.