"I phoned [CBS President and CEO Leslie Mooves] just before the program, and I said 'Leslie, it's been great, you've been great, and the network has been great, but I'm retiring," Letterman told his audience. "I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much. What this means now, is that Paul [Shaffer] and I can be married."
Following his 11-year tenure hosting NBC's Late Night, Letterman moved to CBS in 1993 to host the Late Show after NBC tapped Jay Leno to replace Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. In 2013, he extended his Late Show contract to continue hosting through 2015. During its run, the series has received 73 Emmy nominations and nine wins.
Letterman's announcement comes two months after longtime rival Leno stepped down from The Tonight Show in February.
"We don't have the timetable for this precisely down," Letterman continued. "I think it will be at least a year or so, but sometime in the not too distant future, 2015 for the love of God, in fact, Paul and I will be wrapping things up."
"When Dave decided on a one-year extension for his most recent contract, we knew this day was getting closer, but that doesn't make the moment any less poignant for us," Moonves said in a statement. "For 21 years, David Letterman has graced our Network's air in late night with wit, gravitas and brilliance unique in the history of our medium. During that time, Dave has given television audiences thousands of hours of comedic entertainment, the sharpest interviews in late night, and brilliant moments of candor and perspective around national events. He's also managed to keep many celebrities, politicians and executives on their toes — including me.
"There is only one David Letterman," the statement continues. "His greatness will always be remembered here, and he will certainly sit among the pantheon of this business. On a personal note, it's been a privilege to get to know Dave and to enjoy a terrific relationship. It's going to be tough to say goodbye. Fortunately, we won't have to do that for another year or so. Until then, we look forward to celebrating Dave's remarkable show and incredible talents."
It's unclear who will replace Letterman, who turns 67 on April 12. Craig Ferguson has hosted The Late Late Show since 2005. In a recent interview with TV Guide Magazine, ABC rival Jimmy Kimmel, who moved to the 11:30 p.m. timeslot last year, said that he would consider succeeding Letterman if he was asked. "I am loyal to ABC and grateful to them for giving me a shot," he said. "I was a guy from The Man Show when they put me on. I'm not looking to flee. But just getting a call from Dave would be big for me. So it's definitely something I would listen to."
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