Did Regis Philbin Quit Over a Pay Cut Dispute?
By Rob Shuter Posted Jan 24th 2011 12:30PM
There's a new twist in the surprise departure of Regis Philbin from 'Live With Regis and Kelly,' and as you'd expect, it centers around money. Loads of money. Regis fired his longtime manager, Jim Griffin, right after telling viewers he was quitting, and sources say he made the move because he was insulted by a proposed pay cut.
According to TMZ sources, Regis makes between $18 and $20 million a year. I'm told it's a bit less than that, but regardless, an insider tells me that's "more than double" what Kelly Ripa receives. ABC producers wanted an adjustment for Regis' new contract, and Jim Griffin went to work on negotiations.
"Regis was insulted by the offer he got and chose to leave, blaming his agent on his way out," a television exec tells me. "The problem is the world has changed around this legend. Regis thinks he's being pushed out for someone they can pay peanuts to. The problem is if he thinks he's going to get anywhere near that sort of money doing another show he should think again."
He apparently told Kelly about his decision 15 minutes before they went on air. While initially she was said to be stunned, she is now apparently furious and feels he showed a total lack of respect for her.
An insider with knowledge of the situation tells me that ABC wanted to retain Regis but also felt that Kelly had proven during his medical leaves and frequent days off that she could thrive without him.
"The writing was on the wall when Regis got sick and the show's ratings did not decline," my source says. "When it came time to renegotiate his contract again, the producers knew the show would survive with or without him and offered him way less than the multimillions he had become accustomed to."
Regis has said he's not quitting television, just the show he's helmed since 1983. ABC will announce his replacement in the coming months.
I was at ABC studios in New York just hours after Regis made his announcement and an executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity told me that producers have been "unofficially testing" out possible replacements for a while, but that they haven't necessarily found Kelly's partner yet.
"The show can definitely survive without Regis if they find Kelly the right new co-host," an ABC exec tells me. "For some time they have been unofficially testing out potential replacements on the show. Neil Patrick Harris, Anderson Cooper and even Kelly's husband, Mark, have filled in; yet no one was as good as Regis."
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