A CNBC journalist accused Jeff Shell, the former chief executive of NBCUniversal, of pressuring her for sex over a period of years during her career at the business news network, according to a copy of her complaint reviewed by The New York Times.
The complaint, lodged in late March by Hadley Gamble, an anchor and senior international correspondent, kicked off an investigation that led to Mr. Shell’s dismissal last week, sending shock waves across a far-flung media empire that includes NBC News, the Universal movie studio and DreamWorks Animation.
Less than a page of Ms. Gamble’s complaint, which is more than a dozen pages, focused on allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. Shell. Much of the complaint raised accusations of bullying and discrimination at CNBC, saying women at the network’s international division were harassed by their male colleagues on several different occasions.
Comcast, NBCUniversal’s parent company, hired the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to investigate the complaint after it was sent to the company’s executives in New York and London.
Comcast declined to comment on the complaint.
Last week, Comcast said that it had found evidence to corroborate allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Shell and that it had fired him for cause. The company is not paying him severance.
Mr. Shell said in a statement that he and Ms. Gamble had a “mutual and consensual relationship” and that “the complaint wildly misrepresents the facts of what happened.”
Suann MacIsaac, a lawyer for Ms. Gamble, said that Mr. Shell “targeted” Ms. Gamble months before they met in person and continued his pursuit after his promotion to chief executive.
“We expect more attempts at revisionist history from a man who was just fired for cause following a decade-long campaign of sexual harassment, which began when he was C.E.O. of NBC Universal International,” Ms. MacIsaac said.
Ms. Gamble, 41, is a journalist based in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. She has interviewed major world figures including President Vladimir Putin of Russia, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, and she has worked for CNBC for more than a decade in the Middle East and London, where she met Mr. Shell.
The complaint alleged that Mr. Shell invited Ms. Gamble to dinner in London — the complaint does not say what year — when she was a relatively junior producer and he was the head of NBC International. After the dinner, Mr. Shell accompanied Ms. Gamble back to her hotel and he pressured her to start a sexual relationship but was rebuffed.
Ms. Gamble did not work for the division Mr. Shell oversaw when they met, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Ms. Gamble and Mr. Shell eventually did begin a sexual relationship, according to the complaint, after it became clear to her that rebutting his advances would probably damage her career. The complaint said that Mr. Shell continued to use his position of power at NBCUniversal to pressure her for sex while pursuing her in London, New York and Dubai.
Mr. Shell pursued Ms. Gamble on and off over a period of years over text and email, according to two people familiar with their correspondence, and Ms. Gamble turned over those messages to the company as part of its investigation.
Elsewhere in the complaint, Ms. Gamble alleged specific instances of discrimination and inappropriate behavior toward numerous women at CNBC. In one instance, Ms. Gamble describes a manager calling her a vulgar epithet for women in front of her co-workers for raising concerns about bullying behavior from another journalist. In another, she alleges a co-worker berated her for ending an interview early, using coarse language, and snapping at her for rewriting headlines that she had to read on air.
Ms. Gamble filed the complaint after CNBC did not renew her contract this year. A person familiar with Ms. Gamble’s thinking said that her decision to file the complaint, which she had considered for years, was also based on frustration with what she viewed as a toxic culture of harassment and bullying at CNBC. Axios earlier reported on those aspects of the complaint.
John Casey, the president of CNBC International, told her in February that the network would not offer her a contract for a period longer than a month, according to the complaint. He told her that she had a behavioral problem and accused her of bullying other journalists at CNBC.
Ms. Gamble denied those accusations, according to her complaint. She said in her complaint that Mr. Casey had used the allegations of bullying to justify the decision not to renew her contract, adding that such claims would not have been leveled against a male peer.
Tension existed between Ms. Gamble and CNBC managers before the network’s decision not to renew her contract. In June, the network told her that it was investigating a complaint made against her and a manager at CNBC who had supervised her.
Among other things, CNBC investigated whether she had used a romantic relationship with Tom Barrack, a private equity investor, to secure an interview with Jared Kushner, according to Ms. Gamble’s complaint. The investigation concluded that Ms. Gamble did have a relationship with Mr. Barrack, but determined the relationship was disclosed and there was no evidence of impropriety, according to her complaint. Mr. Barrack was unmarried at the time of his relationship with Ms. Gamble, according to a person familiar with the relationship.
The investigation into Ms. Gamble also found that she had made inappropriate comments about some colleagues in the past, and that she had not always strictly complied with CNBC’s travel and expense policy.
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