Wednesday 24 May 2017

Co-hosts offered £1m-a-year deals to do 'Top Gear' without Clarkson

Richard Hammond and James May
Richard Hammond and James May

Robert Dex in London

The BBC is looking to keep Jeremy Clarkson's former 'Top Gear' co-hosts on the show despite his departure, it has been reported.

James May and Richard Hammond have been offered deals in the region of £1m a year to stay with the hit motoring show.

Such a deal would make the pair among the corporation's highest earners.

It comes amid speculation the BBC will not directly replace Clarkson, but instead have a guest host on each show.

The corporation used a similar tactic when another of its best known faces - 'Have I Got News For You' host Angus Deayton - was fired after reports emerged of drug use and encounters with prostitutes.

A BBC spokeswoman and representatives of the two men declined to comment, but bookmakers have slashed the odds on the pair returning.

William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said: "Just a week ago we were offering 5-1 for them to return for another series of 'Top Gear' but following news of the sums that have been offered to the pair, we have slashed the odds to 5-4."

All three men's contracts ran out earlier this year and the BBC refused to renew Clarkson's after his much-publicised attack on Irish producer Oisin Tymon.

'Top Gear's' former executive producer - and old school friend of Clarkson - Andy Wilman has left the show, which sparked rumours he was joining up with all three men to make an alternative programme, with Netflix and ITV among the broadcasters rumoured to be in the running to show it.

BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw, the woman tasked with putting the programme back together after Clarkson's exit, has previously refused to rule out a return to the show for May and Hammond. Speaking in April, she said conversations were "ongoing" with the pair and confirmed scenes filmed before Clarkson was suspended were likely to air this summer.

Several names have been put forward as possible replacements for Clarkson, including Guy Martin and Jodie Kidd, but another contender - Dermot O'Leary - has ruled himself out.

The former 'X Factor' host told a reporter he had not been approached about the job.

Irish Independent

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