(NYMAG) — On a snowy evening in December, Brian Williams and his wife, Jane, met with a small group of NBC executives for a celebratory dinner in a private room at Del Posto, Mario Batali’s restaurant in Chelsea. Williams had just notched his tenth anniversary anchoring the top-rated Nightly News, and NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke wanted to commemorate the past—and lock in the network’s future.
For months, Williams had been in contract negotiations with Burke, a standoff NBC couldn’t afford to lose. Williams was the face of NBC News, with a nightly audience of more than 8 million people. More important, his program was an island of stability in a news division roiled by a series of self-inflicted crises.
No one at the table knew whether Williams wanted to stay in the anchor chair. Although he seemed genetically bred to be a newscaster—with that perfect almond hair, a jutting jaw, and a commanding yet calming baritone—Williams had, in recent years, developed ambitions to do more than read a teleprompter for 22 minutes a night.
Advertisement - story continues below