Ex-CEO Thomas-Graham Leaves CNBC

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There’s been another management change at one of NBC Universal’s cable outlets, with the exit of CNBC chairman Pamela Thomas-Graham.

Thomas-Graham, 42, is leaving television for the fashion industry, joining Liz Claiborne Inc. as group president, officials said last week. She will have oversight for the flagship Liz Claiborne business, as well as its Sigrid Olsen, J.H. Collectibles, Emma James, Intuitions and Tapemeasure brands, effective Oct. 10.

For four years, Thomas-Graham served as president and CEO of CNBC, which has struggled to find the right programming formula for financial news, particularly in primetime. In February, she was moved out of day-to-day operations and up to the post of chairman. To replace her, NBC Universal brought in Mark Hoffman — who had been head of NBC’s WVIT in Hartford, Conn. — as president of CNBC, in an apparent attempt to turn the cable network’s ratings around.

Earlier this month, NBC News president Neal Shapiro — the NBC Universal executive who also oversees the company’s other cable-news outlet, MSNBC — left. There has been speculation that Shapiro’s replacement will not only have responsibility for NBC News and MSNBC but for CNBC, as well. Currently, Hoffman reports directly to Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Universal Television Group, and not to the NBC News chief.

Prior to joining the cable network, Thomas-Graham was president and CEO of CNBC.com, the channel’s Web site.

She joined CNBC in 1999 from McKinsey & Co., where she was the management consulting firm’s first black female partner. In a statement, Thomas-Graham said she worked with several apparel companies when she was at McKinsey.

“While we regret losing Pamela as a colleague, we congratulate her on her new position,” NBC Universal chairman Bob Wright said in a statement. “As CEO and then chairman of CNBC, Pamela led the network through a most challenging era in business-news reporting. The network has retained its strong profitability, and the CNBC audience continues to be among the wealthiest in all of cable television.”

Still, CNBC has seen its ratings drop over the past few years, with Wall Street’s go-go days over, the Internet bubble having burst and business coverage often translating to bad — not good — news.

This summer, CNBC’s primetime and total-day ratings were a 0.1, flat versus last summer, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

CNBC also will face a challenge from News Corp., which is planning to launch a business-news network.