Conan O'Brien leaves NBC in 45 million dollar deal: reports

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The Independent Online

Conan O'Brien will leave NBC in a 45-million-dollar deal, it was reported Thursday, ending an ugly public feud surrounding the fate of US television's long-running "The Tonight Show.


O'Brien's acrimonious departure clears the way for predecessor Jay Leno to return at the helm of the late-night chat show he had hosted for 17 years until he stepped down seven months ago.

NBC television will hope the deal - which will see O'Brien pocket around 32 million dollars with the balance going to his staff - draws a line under what has been a public relations disaster for the network.

The bitter wrangling exploded into public earlier this month when reports circulated that O'Brien's show was to be given a new 12:05 am scheduling slot to accommodate a new half-hour program hosted by Leno.

It followed NBC's decision to cancel Leno's prime-time show starting at 10 pm after only four months following poor ratings.

However O'Brien refused to accept the change quietly, accusing NBC in a public letter of attempting to destroy "The Tonight Show" and vowing to quit his long-term deal if the change went ahead.

The feuding has become a nightly staple of O'Brien's opening "Tonight Show" monologues, where he has repeatedly ridiculed his NBC paymasters.

On Tuesday's show, he delighted audience members by informing them he was "just three days away from the biggest drinking binge in history."

"I spent the afternoon at Universal Studios' amusement park, enjoying their brand-new ride, the 'Tunnel of Litigation,'" O'Brien said in reference to negotiations for his departure.

Noting reports that he was legally prohibited from criticizing NBC in public, O'Brien then added: "Nobody said anything about speaking in Spanish."

He then broke into Spanish to tell the audience: "NBC is run by brainless sons of goats who eat money and crap trouble."

O'Brien's manager Gavin Polone told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday his client was pleased with the deal.

"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."

O'Brien is reported to be in talks of returning to the air with the Fox network.