NBC and Conan O’Brien have finally announced the terms of their divorce settlement, which will get the late-night host about $45 million to walk away and put an end to a very ugly public fight.
NBC released the following statement today: “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. 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 Sept. 1, 2010.”
Negotiations had been stalled when the two sides couldn’t agree on what O’Brien’s staff would get for their part, sources said. And as suspected, Jay Leno, who’s own failed 10 p.m. show was canceled, is slipping back into his Tonight Show shoes.
“We’re pleased that Jay is returning to host the franchise that he helmed brilliantly and successfully for many years,” NBC Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin said in a statement. “He is an enormous talent, a consummate professional and one of the hardest-working performers on TV.”
Under the agreement, O’Brien will not be able to work anywhere else until September. With his last show cemented for Friday, his last guests will include Robin Williams, musical guest Barry Manilow tonight and Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell on Friday.
Since the late-night war broke out, O’Brien has gained support in his ratings, from competing late-night hosts like David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel as well as throngs of other celebrities. Fans have also held massive “I’m With COCO” rallies across the country to show their allegiance. O’Brien has repaid them all with incredibly sharp-witted, star-packed shows all week. Last night’s lineup included a drop-in from The Hangover’s Ed Helms and Adam Sandler, who had his fair share to say about NBC execs (see clip below).
Meanwhile, Leno–who’s made only lame attempts to attack Letterman and NBC in his 10 p.m. show–has been struggling to keep his “good guy” image intact in light of the media scrutiny. We’ll find out if he can resurrect his persona and his ratings when he returns to the Tonight Show seat March 1. And here’s hoping he leaves behind everything that sank his 10 p.m. show (“Earn Your Plug” and “Green Car Challenge,” we’re talking to you!).