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Face of NBC retires

December 31, 2005|By By Mark R. Madler

After 39 years with the company and 19 in the city NBC executive Jack O'Neill retires his post. MEDIA DISTRICT WEST -- In 1987 Jack O'Neill was laid off from NBC in Burbank and finishing out his final two weeks when he was approached about overseeing a proposed building project.

Although the NBC Plaza project was never built, that request saved the NBC executive's career and led him to become the public face for the company in Burbank.

"It just goes to show you that luck and timing mean everything in business," said O'Neill who retired from NBC/Universal on Friday after nearly 39 years with the company.

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As NBC's representative, O'Neill not only became a familiar face at City Council and Planning Board meetings but also at fundraisers and other events benefiting charitable organizations.

"He's truly been the connection with the officials, city government, but also the community to make the statement that NBC cares about the immediate community that hosts it," City Manager Mary Alvord said.

The Staten Island-native joined NBC in New York City in January 1967 as a cost coordinator, a position O'Neill described as "very entry level."

During his 10 years in New York, O'Neill earned a master's degree in finance and a law degree. In 1987 he transferred out to Burbank where he started working at KNBC.

"I knew that if I made one more move in New York, I would have stayed there for the rest of my life," O'Neill said. "I got a dose of ambition and reality and decided I wanted to try California."

It was when the city embarked on its Media District Specific Plan in the late '80s and NBC was proposing the NBC Plaza at the same time that O'Neill became "the face of NBC."

He appeared on a regular basis before the City Council and city Planning Board as well as meeting with residents.

The council instructed NBC to make sure to get the residents on board first or there wouldn't be approval on its requests, O'Neill said.

"People never hesitated to ask the most difficult questions and it was a great process," O'Neill said. "I'm not saying we made everybody happy but we got the projects approved and we had good community support in doing so."

In the mid-1990s, when NBC was before the city on its master plan for its property, O'Neill did the public outreach himself rather than have professional consultants.

"He was the go-to person," Alvord said.

But for all he's done to foster good relations between NBC and the city, he has the most pride in the community service he did with Boys and Girls Club of Burbank, the Burbank Unified School District, Burbank Temporary Aid Center and other organizations, O'Neill said.

His hosting duties for the annual Trivia Challenge to benefit literacy services at the Burbank Public Library allow him the chance to be funny and laugh with people for three unscripted hours, O'Neill said.

O'Neill's humor has made the fundraiser a success for the three years he has been host, Library Services Director Sharon Cohen said.

"That he knows Burbank and the contestants playing really adds to the ambience of the evening," Cohen said.

* MARK MADLER covers City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at mark.madlerlatimes.com.

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