NBC Confirms Conan Leaving; Says Must Stay Off Air Until September

Breaking up is hard to do, and even harder to put in a press release — but Thursday morning, NBC finally did it.

In a statement released to RadarOnline.com, the Peacock Network said: “NBC and Conan O’Brien have reached a resolution of the issues surrounding O’Brien’s contract to host The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.

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“Under terms of an agreement that was signed earlier today, NBC and O’Brien will settle their contractual obligations and the network will release O’Brien from his contract, freeing him to pursue other opportunities after September 1, 2010. O’Brien will make his final appearance as host of the “Tonight Show” on Jan. 22.”

What the NBC statement didn’t mention: the reported $44 million payout to O’Brien and his staffers to end its’ public relations nightmare in the wake of the vicious spat.

The O’Brien agreement reportedly includes a “non-disparagement clause,” meaning O’Brien’s days of hammering NBC execs on air are through. O’Brien, according to the contract, will not be able to sign with a competing network until this fall.

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Gavin Polone, O’Brien’s manager, gave The Wall Street Journal Conan’s take on the deal, which was mutually agreed upon at at 1 a.m. PST Thursday.

“In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew, and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket,” Polone said. “Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible.”

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NBC said Wednesday they would not be offering tickets to be in the studio audience for Conan’s show next week, meaning his final broadcast will air Friday. The final two days of guests indicate a star-studded exit, with Robin Williams and Barry Manilow slated for Thursday, and Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell scheduled for the Friday finale.

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