MANHATTAN — After a round of escalating on-air confrontations, NBC has officially released Conan O’Brien from “The Tonight Show.”
The network hashed out a deal with O’Brien, reportedly worth upwards of $45 million, that allows the late-night talk show host to walk out of his contract so former host Jay Leno take over, according to published reports.
The deal lets O’Brien leave with approximately $33 million, and the remainder of the settlement will pay for severance for his staff, the Associated Press reported.
Conan’s last show is expected to be Friday night, with a star-studded guest lineup reportedly set to include Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell.
Leno will return as a host of the Tonight Show on March 1, according to published reports.
Conan had previously butted heads with NBC over a binding contract that would have prevented him from working elsewhere, despite the network’s decision to remove him from his prime 11:35 p.m. timeslot. He was reportedly in talks with Fox to host a late-night show, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Under the new agreement, NBC will allow Conan to work on television starting Sept. 1.
"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,'' his manager, Gavin Polone, told TheWrap.com.
"Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible.''
Conan had hinted at a deal in his Tuesday night show, telling viewers he couldn't "say anything negative about the network" — instead singing his insults.