GE executives are insisting that the corporation's giant red GE logo remain on the 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters of NBC in New York, even after Comcast takes over, according to people involved in the negotiations for the landmark media sale.
Comcast and GE announced this morning that a multi-billion deal has been reached in which Comcast would hold a 51 per cent interest and GE a 49 per cent interest in a joint venture combining the programming and broadcast assets of the two companies. Comcast's cable television operation would remain separate.
GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt and other members of his executive team also intend to keep their plush 53rd floor offices in the New York skyscraper, according to people connected with NBC.
"I am all for ego in CEO's, but it should be expended on behalf of the shareholders and not on some cool place to hang out," said Nell Minnow, who runs an independent research firm, the Corporate Library, that is currently compiling a CEO Ego Index.
"I don't see any value for GE shareholders in Immelt having an office in New York," she said. GE's corporate headquarters are located in Fairfield, Connecticut, where Immelt also has an office.
At 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the NBC offices are one floor below on the 52nd floor, connected to the GE floor by a private staircase. The 52nd floor is frequently portrayed in the NBC comedy "30 Rock," which mocks the lavishness of the executive offices.
"Both are lovely but the GE floor makes the 52nd look a little shabby," said one NBC employee. "On the GE floor, they have great art, an elaborate private lunch service and just a much richer feel."
It's not known if the staircase between the two executive floors will be closed off once the Comcast executives move in.
Dump NBC, Keep the Logo on 30 Rock
One NBC executive said the offices and logo became matters of "prestige and ego" for Immelt, who was prepared to dump the NBC network and Universal movie studio but wanted to keep the prominent GE logo a high-profile presence on the New York skyline.
Anne Eisele, director of GE corporate communications said she does not "foresee" GE executives leaving their 53rd floor corporate offices.
As to the GE logo atop the building, Eisele also said she was unaware of any plans to change it, even though GE's presence will now be substantially reduced in the building.
The corporate watchdog Nell Minow says "there is no value in shareholders" to keep the GE logo over the NBC building. "Immelt should be telling the world what GE now stands for, not what it used to stand for," she said.
Spokespeople for Comcast did not return calls seeking comment, and NBCU referred all calls to GE.
NBC paid $440 million in 1996 for the space it had occupied since the golden days of radio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, according to the New York Times.
GE put its corporate logo at the top of the famed building after it bought NBC in 1986 from RCA. Before that, the RCA logo had been displayed.
The new corporate owner of the network, Comcast, apparently will not get the same privilege, according to people involved in the negotiations.