UPDATE: Everybody loves Steve Burke, even Warren Buffett

December 22, 2009

Stephen BurkeWhen news of Comcast’s bid for NBC Universal broke on Sept 30 most of the spotlight focused on Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.

But as the weeks dragged on, some of that spotlight began to shine on his number 2, Stephen Burke, chief operating officer and a former senior Disney executive.

As we now know since the deal was confirmed on Dec 3, NBC Universal’s top brass will report to Burke, making him (once you count the 24 million subscribers he also oversees) one of the most powerful men in TV.

Now, as if he won’t be busy enough taking drape measurements at 30 Rock, Burke has added another feather to his cap. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said this morning that he will join the board.

While it may be sign that Buffett is opening up his board to outsiders, it’s also a sign that Burke has become a force to be reckoned with in the corporate world. He already serves on the board of JP Morgan, which as you might recall had a lot to do with engineering the NBC deal — JPMorgan was the banker for NBC parent General Electric.

How powerful is Burke? Well even his minions-to-be can’t get enough of him. A CNBC reporter said this morning in response to the news of his Berkshire appointment, that Burke is “a very handsome man.”

UPDATE: Since we issued our original post, Comcast put out a regulatory filing stating Burke’s contract has been extended for another five years to Dec 2014. The new contract “acknowledges his substantially increased responsibilities.”

More below from the filing: 

Mr. Burke, in his role as Chief Operating Officer, will be responsible for leading the transition planning and post-closing integration efforts for the Company’s recently announced joint venture (the “NBCU Joint Venture”) with General Electric, which will combine the NBC Universal businesses and the network businesses of the Company. Mr. Burke will also supervise the NBCU Joint Venture’s Chief Executive Officer.

The new agreement follows the standard form of employment agreement used by the Company for its named executive officers, and includes an obligation to work full-time for the Company, as well as non-solicitation, non-competition and confidentiality obligations. Notwithstanding his increased responsibilities, the agreement does not provide for any increase in either base salary (Mr. Burke has had the same base salary since March 1, 2008) or annual cash bonus opportunity of 300% of base salary (based on the achievement of performance goals) . The agreement continues the structure of Mr. Burke’s prior employment agreement of crediting contributions to the Company’s deferred compensation plan – here, $2,000,000 on the effective date and a credit in each year of a specified amount, beginning in 2010 in the amount of $2,000,000 (which is approximately the amount to which Mr. Burke was entitled under his prior agreement).

Also under the agreement, Mr. Burke is eligible to receive two cash bonuses, each of $3,000,000, and two restricted stock unit grants, each having a value of approximately $6,000,000. Vesting under each restricted stock unit grant will occur on the 13 th month anniversary of the date of grant, subject generally to continued employment and a performance condition of a year-over-year increase in free cash flow. One cash bonus and restricted stock unit grant was made following the effective date of the agreement and the other cash bonus and restricted stock unit grant will be made on the earlier of June 30, 2010 or the closing of the NBCU Joint Venture. Mr. Burke will continue to be subject to our Stock Ownership Policy.

According to the filing Comcast also extended the contract of its chief financial officer Michael Angelakis by three years to Dec 2012.

(Photo:  Reuters)

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