NBCUniversal is quietly looking to replace top reality-TV exec who was accused of cultivating a toxic workplace in a bombshell report in late July, The Post has learned.
The takedown penned by The Hollywood Reporter called out NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy and his right hand, Meredith Ahr, for bullying employees and talent.
Telegdy, who was the focus of the July 31 report, was ousted days later, and the company has since launched a probe into the workplace culture. Ahr remains at the company and is “fulfilling her role as normal,” an insider said.
Since Telegdy’s exit, NBCU promoted longtime exec Frances Berwick to lead the entertainment business amid a broader reorganization at NBCU, which has been financially crushed by the coronavirus pandemic. As part of those shifts, NBC is poised to announce that it lured away Susan Rovner, a Warner Bros. TV exec to oversee all programming for NBCU, according to multiple sources.
An insider told The Post that once the programming hire is made, the rest of the team will be determined by the new boss.
But those talks are already happening, according to a source, who said that Rovner’s Warner Bros. colleague Michael Darnell, who runs unscripted & alternative TV, is in talks for Ahr’s job.
NBC declined to comment. Darnell did not return requests seeking comment.
Darnell, who has been dubbed in the press as “the king of reality TV,” brought “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance?” and “Family Guy” to the small screen while working at Fox in the early aughts.
A source said Showtime’s scripted TV exec Amy Israel is being floated as a possible replacement for Darnell. Warner Bros. denied that Darnell is in talks to leave the company.
According to multiple insiders, a group of execs on Ahr’s team canceled drinks with people outside the company on Monday, giving the excuse of “an HR issue.” The eyebrow-raising move may suggest a bigger shake up at the top of the reality TV division, a source said.
While NBCU’s investigation is ongoing, THR’s report, which cited anonymous testimonial from over 30 current and former employees, suggested that Telgdy and Ahr ran a “mean girls” club, with Telegdy setting the tone by mocking gay staffers, telling sexually explicit personal stories during meetings and making racially insensitive remarks.
Last November, actress Gabrielle Union, a former judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” filed a harassment lawsuit that accused the network of being “a snake pit of racial offenses,” and claimed she was axed from the show when she complained.
Although NBC denied the claims, THR’s report painted a different picture, which included Ahr’s staff telling Union that her hair was “too wild” and needed to be “toned down” — notes that she alleges implied “that her hair was ‘too black.’”
Ahr also pulled a prank that struck several NBC execs as deeply offensive, which included putting a framed photo of a black actress whom Ahr apparently considered “very unattractive” on Telegdy’s desk, the report said.
“She played it off as if Paul could refer to that as his wife and make fun of it,” an exec said. NBC denied the incident.