Television presenter Jessica Rowe has stunned viewers and colleagues alike by announcing she will leave Channel Ten morning show Studio 10 to spend more time with her family.
Rowe, 47, revealed her decision on Friday in front of the show’s live studio audience, prompting co-host Joe Hildebrand to immediately break into audible sobs.
Host Natarsha Belling introduced Rowe’s big news, saying: “Jess Rowe, we love you, you’ve got some special news.”
“I do, thank you Tash,” Rowe began. “I’ve got some news I want to share with all of you, the beautiful audience, because you’ve been so incredible to me over so many years. I’ve decided to leave Studio 10. It’s been a very hard thing for me to do but it’s because my family need me.”
Rowe said her daughters, Allegra and Giselle, “needed their mum”.
“I want to be there in the mornings for them, take them to school, do canteen duty – heaven help them with the sandwiches – but it’s something that I need to do – it is as simple as that,”
The longtime television personality, who joined the show in 2013, said she had discussed leaving at length with her husband, Nine News presenter Peter Overton.
“It’s weighed on me because this is a job that I love. This is the best job I’ve ever had on television, it is family and it’s been a job that has allowed me to find my voice and my courage again and I will never, ever forget that,” Rowe said.
Host Denise Drysdale paid tribute to Rowe as “one of the best friends I’ve ever had,” while Belling called her “kind and courageous”.
By far the most emotional panellist was Hildebrand, who buried his head on Rowe’s shoulder as they hugged.
“Joe, I love you – it’s been such a journey,” Rowe said while comforting him.
“It’s been wonderful,” he responded.
While Rowe said the network had been “nothing but supportive” about her decision and she was welcome back “anytime”, the show’s former executive producer, Robert McKnight, tweeted that Ten had been planning to sack her “for over a year”.
“Sad to hear @JessRowe is leaving@Studio10au.@channelten have been planning to sack her for over a year. She blamed me, even though I was trying to save her job,” McKnight tweeted.
— Robert McKnight (@rob_mcknight) March 8, 2018
A Channel Ten spokesperson rejected McKnight’s claims, saying in a statement: “Mr McKnight’s claim is completely wrong, obviously spiteful and deliberately misleading. As Jess said, she has decided to leave Studio 10 to devote more time to her family and her other interests. Anyone who suggests otherwise is being petty and ignorant. Jess is welcome back to TEN anytime.”
Rowe, who was honoured as a Member of the Order of Austrlaia in 2015 for her mental health awareness advocacy, said she is planning to continue working.
“I still want to do my public speaking, my mental health advocacy, I’m a crap housewife … but most importantly I’m looking forward to being there for my family,” she said
Her last day on the show will be Good Friday, March 30.