The behind-the-scenes drama at the Today show surrounding Ann Curry's departure is the story that keeps on giving. Now, a new report in New York magazine claims Matt Lauer nearly moved to ABC last year, amid a leak that Ryan Seacrest had been approached to replace him on Today.
Though NBC executives assured Lauer they didn't want him to leave the show and that they viewed Seacrest as merely an "insurance policy" in case Lauer chose to explore other options, Lauer reportedly became angry upon learning that the talks with Seacrest had been leaked to the media. At the same time, he and his former Today co-anchor Katie Couric had approached Jeff Zucker at ABC with an idea for a daytime talk show they would host together, according to the report. As part of the deal, Lauer would have had a role on ABC News. (Couric went on to sign a deal with the network for her own daytime talk show, Katie.)
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According to New York, ABC executives believed they had been given a verbal agreement from Lauer that he would be leaving NBC to join their network. But within a week (during which time Lauer negotiated his new $25 million contract with NBC), he backed out of the deal.
By this time, it had become clear to everyone involved with Today that either Curry or Lauer would have to leave the show. (In viewer surveys, Curry was fairly popular while Lauer came off as "unlikeable," New York reports.)
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"At the moment when he had maximum leverage with NBC, Lauer, as the multimillion-dollar megastar, could easily have saved her—but he didn't," the New York article says. "To the contrary, in signing a new contract to remain at the show for at least two more years, he tacitly ratified the plan to remove her."
Lauer tells New York that he and Curry have not spoken about her departure from Today since her tearful last day on the air in June 2012.