TODAY’s embattled co-host Matt Lauer nearly jumped to rival ABC last year, but in a last-minute decision that angered bosses at the Alphabet Network, he decided to stay at NBC, which helped pave the way for the eventual ouster of Ann Curry – a move that Lauer did NOT attempt to stop.
According to this week’s New York magazine, Lauer, 55, was in the final stages of making a deal with ABC last year to jump ship. It was considered a done deal by those involved, including Bob Iger, CEO of ABC parent Disney; ABC News boss Ben Sherwood, and even Lauer’s own agent.
As part of the lucrative multi-million dollar deal, Lauer would have appeared on various ABC programs, including Good Morning America, and he would even have been a co-host on the Disney-produced Katie Couric talk show.
“Iger was infuriated, as was [Jeff] Zucker [former executive producer of ‘Katie,’]” according to the mag. The article’s writer, Joe Hagan, reports that Sherwood “would not soon forget: In the months to come, he would spend an inordinate amount of time poking at Lauer and reveling in schadenfreude.”
According to Hagan, Lauer’s decision to stay at TODAY put into place a series of events that led to the eventual departure of Curry as co-host, which resulted in TODAY imploding in the ratings, Lauer’s image being badly tarnished, and the loss of tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the struggling network.
NBC lured Lauer to stay by giving him a four-day work week and a $25 million-a-year raise.
When he decided to stay put at TODAY, NBC execs, including NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, decided something needed to change at the once dominant morning show and that Curry would be the one going — and Lauer, who holds considerable clout at TODAY, didn’t fight for her.
Lauer recently joked about the fallout from Curry’s departure and said he wants the entire mess to go away.
Previously, Lauer revealed that he quietly reached out to Couric to see if she’d be willing to return to TODAY after Meredith Vieira left the show in 2011. When Couric declined, Curry was then promoted from news reader to co-host, but she would only keep the job for one year.
Curry’s disastrous exit last summer — in which she cried and ignore an awkward kiss on the cheek from Lauer –- resulted in the show losing its #1 status to Good Morning America and the show has since not recovered.