By Meredith Blake and Meg James
2:33 PM CST, February 1, 2013
NBC News President Steve Capus announced Friday that he would be resigning from his position after nearly eight years on the job and 20 years at the network.
"It has been a privilege to have spent two decades here, but it is now time to head in a new direction," he wrote in a lengthy internal memo effusive with praise for his colleagues. "Side by side, we have documented the historic, the unforgettable, and the exquisitely ordinary."
Capus, who served as a longtime producer for news anchor Brian Williams before being appointed president by Jeff Zucker in 2005, did not cite a specific reason for his departure.
"Steve has been a friend, boss and mentor to a great many people at NBC News for a long time and we will all miss him very much," said NBC News Chairman Pat Fili-Krushel in an internal email Friday. A replacement for Capus has not yet been named.
Capus has been increasingly marginalized at NBC News over the past year, a rough period that began with the ratings slide at "Today." After 17 years of ratings dominance, "Today" is now No. 2 in the ratings behind ABC's "Good Morning America," though it occasionally ekes out a win in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic.
The very public spectacle of Ann Curry’s ouster made a bad situation even worse, leaving many with a negative impression of the once esteemed Matt Lauer and the NBC News brand.
Though "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" remains the top-rated evening news broadcast, the news magazine "Rock Center with Brian Williams" opened with a whimper in 2011 and is now being moved from its marquee Thursday night spot to Friday night, where its anemic ratings may be less of a concern.
Rumors of Capus' departure have swirled since a restructuring last July, when NBC Universal Chief Executive Steve Burke elevated administrative executive Fili-Krushel to chairman of the NBC News Group, which included the broadcast NBC News division and cable channels MSNBC and CNBC. Instead of reporting directly to Burke, Capus had to report to Fili-Krushel, a respected executive but someone with scant experience in network news.
At the time, Burke said the reorganization was necessary to create "a structure that should help foster even more cooperation," which hinted at underlying tensions within the company's vast but previously balkanized units.
Capus joined the ranks at NBC News in 1993 as an executive producer on "NBC Nightside." During his tenure at the network, he served as a supervising producer for "Today" and an executive producer on broadcasts such as "NBC News at Sunrise," and "The News with Brian Williams" on MSNBC.
Capus was also executive producer of "NBC Nightly News" from May 2001 to June 2005, a period defined by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington. He became president of NBC News in 2005 just as Hurricane Katrina lashed New Orleans.
"It was the week of Hurricane Katrina, and I soon found myself in a helicopter with [former NBC Universal Chairman] Bob Wright flying over the flooded 9th Ward as people were still being plucked off their rooftops," Capus wrote in his memo.
He gave no indication of what he planned to do next, though with his close ally Zucker in the midst of a vast overhaul at CNN, Capus may not be on the job hunt for too long.