Kathie Lee Gifford wanted out of the “Today” show a year ago, Page Six has learned.
Sources tell us that Gifford — who announced on Tuesday that she’s leaving the NBC show after 11 years — went to execs in the fall of 2017 and said she was ready to quit.
But network insiders tell us that NBC News brass begged her to stay on for another year because the all-important morning show’s lineup was in upheaval, and they wanted to keep as much continuity as possible.
The execs even signed off on Gifford taking off big chunks of time to make movies and record music, so that she’d stick around.
When Gifford initially raised her resignation with her bosses, Matt Lauer had just been booted from the “Today” show amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Megyn Kelly’s floundering hour was sending shockwaves through the franchise, and at the same time fans were still feeling the absence of favorite Tamron Hall.
So we’re told that Gifford was offered a sweet deal to stay on for an 11th year co-hosting the beloved, wine-swilling fourth hour of “Today” with Hoda Kotb.
On Tuesday, Gifford announced on the air that she was leaving to concentrate on her movie career.
Meanwhile, sources tell Page Six that Jenna Bush Hager is the hot favorite to take over for Gifford.
Hager has become popular with viewers and NBC News chiefs alike, we’re told, and is set to step into Gifford’s role when she leaves on her 11th anniversary in April 2019.
After she announced her departure from the show on the air Tuesday morning, Gifford said: “I know somebody wonderful will be sitting in this seat afterward.” And, “I have my idea who might be absolutely wonderful.”
Hager has been a frequent presence on the show, joining co-host Kotb over the summer when Gifford was away in Scotland shooting a movie she also wrote.
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