Norton tipped to fill Ross's shoes after shock resignation at Beeb
Published 08/01/2010 | 05:00
Jonathan Ross, the BBC's highest-paid TV star, sensationally quit yesterday after 13 years at the corporation.
The controversial chat show host, whose reported £18m (e20m) three-year contract was due to expire in the summer, insisted his decision was not about his pay packet.
His decision comes just over a year since the notorious Sachsgate scandal, over which Ross was suspended for three months, and followed reports that Ross's future at the BBC was looking increasingly uncertain.
Graham Norton, who has just signed a new deal with the BBC, had been reported to be a rumoured replacement for Ross's Friday night chat show.
'Friday Night with Jonathan Ross', the star's Saturday morning Radio 2 show and his film review programme have made Ross one of the corporation's biggest stars, but his high profile has also landed him in hot water.
Yesterday the broadcaster (49) said of his departure: "I think it's probably not a bad time for me to move on and probably not a bad time for them (the BBC) either."
He said he had made the decision not to renegotiate his current contract, which expires at the end of June, in the last fortnight. Ross said he was "grateful to the BBC for such a marvellous experience" and that he would "miss" making all his BBC shows.
He said in a statement: "I would like to make it perfectly clear that no negotiations ever took place and that my decision is not financially motivated.
"I signed my current contract with the BBC having turned down more lucrative offers from other channels because it was where I wanted to be and -- as I have said before -- would happily have stayed there for any fee they cared to offer, but there were other considerations."
Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, said she could "understand" Ross's decision "following a difficult year".
She said: "Jonathan Ross has told us that he's decided not to pursue the renewal of his contract with the BBC.
"Jonathan is an extremely talented broadcaster and his programmes for BBC TV and radio have been a great success. However, it's been a difficult year for him and I understand why he feels it's the right thing to do."
Ross, known for his flamboyant dress sense and inability to pronounce the letter 'R', could now move to Channel 4, ITV, Sky or to the US.
Speculation about signing a deal in the US mounted when he posted a message on Twitter that he was meeting someone from Los Angeles.
Later he tweeted: "Good morning. My day is turning out to be far more interesting then I had anticipated! See you later."
In a later message to his fans, Ross tweeted: "Hello again. Thanks for all the kind words about my decision. I feel sad that I can't keep making the shows so many of you love!"
Fans called Ross's announcement the "end of an era", saying they were "sad" and "gutted" about the decision, while others pondered how much money it would save the BBC.
Comedian David Mitchell, DJ Chris Moyles and broadcaster Richard Bacon were among those who responded to the news on Twitter.
In 2008, the controversial host was suspended for three months after making a series of lewd phone calls to actor Andrew Sachs on Russell Brand's Radio 2 show. Ross and Brand's messages sparked more than 50,000 complaints.