NBC Sports Group Chairman Dick Ebersol during a news conference...

NBC Sports Group Chairman Dick Ebersol during a news conference at the offices of the National Hockey League, in New York. (April 19, 2011) Credit: AP

Dick Ebersol, one of the most powerful, visible figures in sports media, abruptly resigned Thursday as chairman of NBC Sports Group, immediately prompting speculation about the network's future as home of the Olympics.

Ebersol decided to leave after he was unable to reach a contract agreement with Comcast, the network's corporate overseer since early this year, even after the company increased his domain to include its cable sports networks.

With the IOC prepared to receive bids from NBC, ESPN and Fox early next month for the 2014 and '16 Olympics, NBC would appear to be in a weakened position. Ebersol has strong ties to the IOC.

But the IOC has been assured the network intends to bid as planned. The question is how high it will go. Comcast has a reputation for being careful with its money, and NBC lost more than $200 million on the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

NBC will carry the London Games next summer, without Ebersol. "I think it'll be fun once I get past thinking, 'I would've done that differently,' " he told The Associated Press.

Ebersol, 63, has been the top executive at NBC Sports since 1989, the latest stop in an eclectic career that included helping develop "Saturday Night Live" in the mid-1970s.

"I had a long run and loved every bit of it," he said, adding, "I've worn the five [Olympics] rings on the inside of my heart as much as anybody."

Mark Lazarus, president of NBC Sports Cable Group, was named to succeed him.

Ebersol has been associated with the Olympics since he dropped out of Yale in 1967 to work for ABC's Roone Arledge as a researcher.

Unlike most top sports television executives, who largely are unknown to fans, Ebersol long has been a celebrity himself. He has been married to actress Susan Saint James since 1981 and has not been shy about taking on competitors with verbal salvos, most recently in a book about ESPN due out Tuesday.

In 2004, Ebersol's 14-year-old son, Teddy, was killed in the crash of a private jet in Colorado. Ebersol was seriously injured but soon was back at work negotiating the NFL's return to NBC.

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