During his 20 years on Today, Matt Lauer has been the star of the show. He was the reliable face of the program while his co-anchors (Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry) have come and gone. And he’s counseled his superiors on personnel decisions, warning them against bringing on the now-ousted Billy Bush and struggling former Fox News darling Megyn Kelly, says a source. However, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, he was fired from the morning talk show after sexual harassment allegations.
It was previously reported, though, that Matt planned to quit. once his contract was up next year anyway. Says the source: “He tried to make things work.” He was apparently done trying — that is until the network abruptly let him go.
Matt, 59, had plans to leave Today when his estimated $25 million-a-year contract expired in 2018, the source tells In Touch. “Matt’s heart just hasn’t been in the job this past year,” said the source. Indeed, his ongoing rivalry with 9 a.m. hour host Megyn, 47, probably played a big part in his life-changing decision to walk away. “He thinks she’s entitled,” says the source.
But Matt also wanted to see more of his family: wife Annette and their children, Jack, 16, Romy, 14, and Thijs, 10, according to the source. The source is convinced that Matt’s departure (which has now been decided by NBC) will tarnish the show. “Matt is going to do a lot of damage to the show when he leaves,” said the insider, “because no one is being groomed to take over his job.”
Matt allegedly started to think about his exit when his bosses brought in Megyn in January. “He was told at the last minute that she was being hired,” says the source. “Before, he would have been in the loop. He used to have tremendous influence. So it looked to some like he was being pushed aside.” A month later, he admitted he had a plan in mind to retire. “At the first hint that I might not love it, I will go,” he told TV Insider. “It would be a crime to stay.” Nevertheless, the source says, he tried to welcome Megyn and offer her advice about transitioning from Fox News to the bubblier world of morning TV. “Megyn didn’t want to hear it,” says the source. Her rebuff sparked a clash of egos that has continued for months, as In Touch previously reported, culminating in an October argument in the halls of NBC’s NYC headquarters.
The daily grind was wearing Matt down, too. “He has to get up at 3 a.m. every day,” the source pointed out. “It’s taken a toll.” So have the demands of the job, such as being on-call to fly anywhere in the world in the event of breaking news. “His career has taken him away from his family,” continued the source. “He wants to spend as much time with his kids before they go of to the next stages of their lives.” On his agenda: riding lessons with equestrian Romy and getting involved with Thijs’ Little League team. Well, with his recent termination, he’ll have plenty of time for that now.
Sources say some NBC bosses hold Matt accountable for the fallout from Ann’s disastrous exit in 2012 and Today‘s continued ratings drop compared to Good Morning America. As a result, they hadn’t started the traditional contract talks that typically take months. But Matt wasn’t insulted, according to the source: “It’s just another sign the time has come for him to leave.” Unfortunately, NBC made that decision for him…
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