As talks continue with Gabrielle Union over the former America’s Got Talent judge’s racial discrimination claims, NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy has become the subject of an internal investigation into allegations of professional misconduct. On top of allegations made in recent months against the exec by Union and her lawyers, the probe comes as NBCU is finalizing a new structure for its TV group under Mark Lazarus, which may impact a number of top posts on the linear TV side of the business, including the job currently held by Telegdy.
“NBCUniversal takes these matters seriously, and will investigate these allegations, many of which are coming to our attention for the first time,” the company said in a statement to Deadline on Friday about Telegdy’s alleged behavior. “NBCUniversal remains committed to creating a safe, respectful and supportive workplace for all.” Criticized in the recent past for the manner in which the initial probe into Union’s claims was conducted NBC today declined to elaborate on who would conduct the investigation or who would be interviewed.
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As a shake-up at the Comcast-owned company looms, this latest probe was prompted by a THR report, in which current and former employees allege that Telegdy engaged in racist, sexist and homophobic behavior.
We hear that there hasn’t previously been any “official” complaints to NBCU’s HR departments over the British-born exec’s “salty language,” innuendos and more. However, sources also tell Deadline that Telegdy’s profanity strewn style and “schoolboy bigotry” was repeatedly bemoaned by co-workers, both above and below him. For instance, in but one example of such behavior, a meeting involving Telegdy, Access Hollywood Mario Lopez and a trio of female producers allegedly saw the long serving executive apparently make snide and inappropriate remarks concerning the women’s genitals that left almost all embarrassed.
“This couldn’t be ignored forever, but no one seemed to want to touch it until now,” a corporate insider says. That attitude apparently shifted as Lazarus clinched the broad strokes of the corporate streamlining in recent days. As a video that distributed internally at NBCU yesterday indicated following the company’s 2Q earnings report, the cuts and realignment are expected to be announced in mid-to-late August.
Having been distinctly cited in Union’s harassment, discrimination and retaliation filing with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing in early June, Telegdy is said to have called the actor’s primary agent at CAA in February as a previous NBCU investigation was ongoing about what really went down with AGT boss Simon Cowell and producers on the competition show. While Union, who was dropped from AGT after just one season in November 2019, is repped by a team at the uber-agency, the conversation with an apparently shocked Dave Bugliari saw Telegdy proclaiming that Union “had better cease from pursuing her claims of racism while filming AGT,” according to the DFEH filing. “Union’s agent could not recall another instance in his career when a senior executive at a network had threatened and intimidated an employee during an ongoing workplace investigation,” the paperwork added.
The spouse of Silence Breaker and Charmed alum Alyssa Milano, Bugliari has not commented publicly on the alleged exchange. In fact, neither the high ranking agent nor CAA have confirmed nor commented on the alleged conversation. With parsed language at the time, NBCU issued a response that the “allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue.”
What is true is that talks are definitely continuing between Union’s Freedman + Tailtelman lawyers and NBC and AGT representatives, we understand, and could go back into mediation. With no small irony, the new investigation made public today may actually see Telegdy in his position longer than expected. The company doesn’t want to risk being accused later of being “too hasty in our response” and face a legal battle, a well connected source tells Deadline
Still, the pending sweeping changes in NBCU’s TV operations, which are expected to also involve both a corporate reorganization and significant staff reductions, had been in the works for weeks. On NBCUniversal’s earnings call Thursday, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said that Lazarus is “finalizing a new structure” that will shift resources toward streaming and away from traditional TV operations. Addressing the broader operating environment, Shell said crises like COVID-19 “tend to accelerate and exacerbate trends, and that is certainly true in the television business.”
The changes had been rumored to include the leadership of NBCU’s linear networks, including NBC and the lifestyle and entertainment cable networks, with consolidation expected. Telegdy, who has denied Union’s government filing and potential legal action over her firing from America’s Got Talent, is among the top executives whose future had been uncertain post-restructuring.
Also possibly getting streamlined is the combined NBCU TV studio operation currently overseen by Bonnie Hammer.
Joining NBC in 2008 during the reign of Ben Silverman, Telegdy became the sole Chairman of NBC Entertainment last fall and also continued to oversee syndication and Universal Television Alternative Studio. The reality veteran shepherded a string of successful new unscripted series on NBC, led by The Voice.